by Tiana K. Allen and Malik Glaspie
On April 16, the cast of A Different World came to Norfolk State University to speak on the show, their experiences in college, and real world experiences. The event was sponsored by SunTrust and Access College Foundation. This event was the first time the cast has come together since appearing on the Oprah Show in 2009. Jasmine Guy, Kadeem Hardison, Charnele Brown, Darryl Bell, and Cree Summer sat down with commentator Janet Roach and gave their individual advice on the life of an HBCU student.
The cast, like their characters, were vibrant and held strong to their beliefs on being well educated individuals. Cree Summer admitted to being like her character, Freddie. She encouraged all students who are different to not mind other people’s criticism. She explained that being who you are is the best way to find your own freedom.
The cast started off the discussion by explaining why an HBCU is a great choice for young African Americans. Among the cast, Jasmine Guy pushed the ideology that HBCUs give off a family vibe and familiarity. Like her character, Whitley, she insists that no other type of institution is going to love, nurture, or care for an African American like an HBCU.
“I think that students do have a lot to face when choosing a college. I’m not sure how particular that our black kids are being guided. I think that’s highly realistic that if you are a guidance counselor looking at stats and you don’t know anything about HBCU’s that you might want those student that are making higher GPA’s to go to a bigger university. But the advantage of going to a black college is something that is not necessarily on paper,” said Jasmine Guy when asked about students who are not particularly aware of the benefits of an HBCU.
The panel discussion also featured several clips from A Different World that included familiar subject matter regarding college such as Greek life, balancing school and personal life, scholarships, and life paths after college.
Charnele Brown confessed to not liking her character, Kim, at first. She stated that she felt that she was “too boring.” After a while, though, she began to like her character because she identified with so many college students. The cast pointed out that Kim is the ideal college student because many students are struggling to balance being scholars, working, and being a part of extracurricular activities. Brown encouraged all students who feel as if they are a “Kim” to not give up and keep pursuing their degree and dreams.
When asked about how HBCU students should handle themselves after graduation, Darryl Bell said that they must simply go after the money. Kadeem Hardison encouraged HBCU students to find something that they love and to go after it full heartedly. When speaking from his character, Dwayne’s, perspective, he said that students should give back to their community.
When discussing how HBCUs can overcome their negative reputations, Darryl Bell stated “You apply the skills that you learned and then you say ‘Now what do you have to say?’ That’s how you do it. You shut them up by succeeding. Let your success speak for itself.”
At the end of the “It Is A Different World” event, different sponsors came together to give scholarships to 6 different students. Each received $1,000 toward their pursuit of higher education.