It’s graduation season and if your social media timelines look anything like mine, you too are witnessing a photo flood of newly minted HBCU alums, flourishing in their cap and gowns.

From first-generation grads and studying single parents, to those overcoming “imposter syndrome” or financial hardships to earn their degrees, the stories of perseverance, tenacity, and resilience are inspiring.

There is truly no better time than now to celebrate what it means to dream, work hard, and achieve! But in the wake of our current climate, where it seems some of “our cousins” conveniently forget or even renounce their blackness once they reach excellence (cc: Kanye West and Ben Carson), we also need to celebrate what it means to be black and goal-oriented and proud of both identities.

In the midst of my Saturday afternoon scroll on Insta, a non-cap-and-gown pic announcing the launch of a new clothing line, Black and GOALD, immediately caught my eye. As I learned more about the message behind the brand—celebrating blackness and goal-setting while remaining committed to one’s community—I definitely let out an audible “yassssss” to show my approval. The empowerment lifestyle apparel focuses on “inspiring black people to dominate their goals and level up,” while lifting up others! The line was started by Howard alum, Erin Winters and co-owner Cameron White, as a reminder of their collective pledge to do just that! In fact, Erin and Cameron are committed to giving a percentage of each sale back to the community through scholarships, black business partnerships, and service. The two are very adamant that Black and GOALD is not just another trendy t-shirt line, it’s a movement.

Founders and co-owners of Black and GOALD LLC, Cameron White and Erin Winters.

Thinking about the mission of Black and GOALD caused me to reflect on my own experiences since my time in undergrad and law school. To state it plainly, being “black and goald” won’t always be easy. As I’m sure many other alums will tell you, the years after graduation, ain’t no “crystal stair.” *Langston Hughes voice.*

There will be times when, despite your fancy hoods, degrees and resume, you will question your place and your purpose. There will be times when others will doubt and underestimate you, as the only person of color in the boardroom or courtroom. There will be times when you will be advised to diminish your blackness to make your rise to success easier—your presence more palatable. But, it is during these experiences that you will learn what you’re made of and hone your true essence. It during these moments that you will lean on your HBCU community to keep you grounded, motivated, focused and supported.

To me, being “black and goald” means never forgetting who you are in your pursuit of excellence. It is a reminder that to whom much is given, much is required—a call to be very black, very driven, and very proud in all spaces and at all times. And really, outside of that expensive piece of paper, isn’t that the best gift our HBCUs can give any of us? The confidence to relish in our goals and our blackness.

With that said, congrats to all the 2018 graduates! The best for each of you is truly yet to come. As for this Howard alum, I know I’ll be jumping on the “black and goald” bandwagon. Will you?

For more info on the Black and GOALD movement check them out on Instagram  (@black_and_goald) or Facebook (Black and GOALD).