Re.engineer Magazine - Winter 2022

The official photo was taken later that morning and the videographer captured addition footage of the shoot which was later combined into a graffiti art project. Harlem has always been considered the mecca of black culture, excellence and creativity. This project added to the rich history of Harlem. The greatest of days in Harlem it truly was to all in attendance! The genesis of the idea for the photoshoot came about at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic (February/March 2020). This coincided with the seemingly endless issue of social injustice against Black Americans which heightened shortly after and made many wonder if the problem would ever abate. Due to education being a weapon used by African-Americans to fight social injustice in the US, hence, the founding of HBCUs, the idea of this project could not have been more timely. Darryl Roberts, Founder and CEO of Bridging Structural Holes and producer of the event shared the following, “My thought was, how can we bring together so many people during a time of social unrest in the middle of a world health crisis?" He knew this gathering would be unprecedented and epic but the challenge of implementing was enormous. The team initially reached out to HBCU alumni through friends and social media connections such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. The task of getting 100% HBCU alumni representation in Harlem was daunting though not impossible. Afterall, this is the home of the Harlem Renaissance, right? Eventually the project gained traction when HBCU presidents and administrators joined the efforts by searching their databases in the northeast. It was pure grassroots love watching the resources come together for a common goal. Unfortunately, the unprecedented health pandemic caused numerous cancellations which led to potponing the project initially. However, the social climate was at a breaking point with daily protests reminiscent of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The project would need to be delayed but not denied. This gave many people hope and 180 alumni from 85+ HBCUs confirmed their attendance and showed up on the rescheduled date of September 25, 2021. Even the weather cooperated for the much anticipated occasion. The location of the photograph was critical to the narrative. With education at the core of the project, the chosen location, the grand steps in Morningside Park, represented the place where legislation protests and boycotts once took place in an effort to ensure Black people could receive coveted higher education degrees. In fact, the grand steps in Morningside Park are symbolic of the viloent 1968 Jim Crow protests for equality which took place on adjacent streets. The history stunned the alumni present and gave even more meaning to this epic event.

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