The Mean Girl of Morehouse Returns
Ten years ago, I wrote a story that changed lives forever—including my own. I went back to examine the wreckage
In 2009, I was sifting through press releases and news items, looking for a story. In my office — really an illegal bedroom in a Newark, New Jersey, rooming house — my assistant sat nearby, reading headlines aloud to me.
“Morehouse College has a new dress code,” he said.
I shrugged. Nothing new there. For years, HBCUs had been struggling to keep the Black Ivy League moving into the modern era while trying to stay true to certain standards. When Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, and others are among the distinguished alumni, there’s not much room for freshmen wearing sagging jeans and durags on campus.
I quickly read through the press release. It mentioned all the things I expected it to: no sunglasses worn in class, no head coverings inside buildings…
Then my eye skipped to the bottom.
I read it aloud to my assistant.
“No wearing of clothing usually worn by women (dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.) on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events.”
He and I stared at each other, our heads cocked to the side, eyebrows raised as far as they would go.
Why on earth would Morehouse College need to bury this rule at the end of the statement? And who were these students at Morehouse, an institution serving Black men for more than 100 years, who needed to be told not to wear clothing “usually worn by women.”
A few days later, Morehouse College’s president clarified the section of the press release regarding women’s clothes, which also included makeup and handbags. He said it was a very small segment of the population that needed to be addressed.
I called Jermaine Hall, now the editor-in-chief here at LEVEL — and then the editor in chief of Vibe. I’d worked with Jermaine for more than a decade by that point, and we’d come…