1,000+ students, faculty, staff and alumni register to participate

Howard University hosted its eighth annual Howard University Day of Service (HUDOS) on Friday, Aug. 21, 2020. Incoming students, both national and international, as well as continuing Howard University students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni volunteered together, virtually, supporting the needs of organizations across the nation.

Despite grappling with the COVID-19 global pandemic, being required to leave campus and adapt to virtual learning spaces, and mourning the loss of countless innocent Black people whose lives were brutally taken at the hands of police, the student leaders who organized HUDOS 2020 were determined to continue to serve and meet the needs of Black communities in unique ways.

“What happens at Howard University has implications for the nation and global community. History has documented that,” said Bernard L. Richardson, Ph.D., dean of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel. “I want freshmen [and the entire Howard University student body] to understand that when history books are written in future generations, they’re going to talk about this moment. How this class really set the standard for teaching us how to serve virtually.”

Protest and advocacy are not monolithic; each requires a multi-layered approach. “After much prayer and discussion at the beginning of quarantine, we decided that being on the frontlines of protest means serving our people as student leaders. Yes, we’re dealing with attacks on our communities and ourselves in so many ways, but it was never a doubt in our mind that the service had to continue which brought us to HUDOS 2020,” said Denae Carmelino, co-student director of HUDOS 2020.

More than 1,000 participants registered for Howard University’s first-ever virtual day of service. Designed as an introduction to Howard’s commitment to service for all incoming students, HUDOS focuses on community building through eight service-learning initiatives addressing: educational disparities, environmental injustices, community health disparities, housing and food disparities, violence, police and community relationships, political empowerment, and youth/elderly outreach.

What is virtual service? Participants registered hundreds of citizens to vote, wrote letters to essential workers, played games with senior citizens, , drafted advocacy letters, created educational videos for virtual classrooms, and even mapped buildings in Caribbean countries and other surrounding countries impacted by the hurricane season, serving more than 30 service sites including the Poor People’s Campaign, Rock the Vote, Black Benefactors, Howard University Hospital, So Others Might Eat, Hayes Senior Wellness Center, Humanitarian Open Street Mapping, Trees Durham and more.

“I remember watching as everything unfolded in Minneapolis, following the murder of George Floyd, and even my hometown of the Bronx, New York—the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic and witnessing how people in both communities banded together to demand justice,” said Oluwatobi Mojeed-Balogun, co-student director of HUDOS 2020. Witnessing those communal spaces reminded me of a quote by April R. Silver, a Howard alumna, activist, artist, social justice leader and founder of Black Neo-force who said to Sonia Sanchez […] ‘but politically I am clear and always have been, we are worth fighting for, flaws and contradictions galore, we are worth fighting for over and over again.’” This quote really resonated with me. With this quote as our driving force and the source of our theme “We Are Worth Fighting For,” we knew that regardless of what was happening with the coronavirus pandemic, HUDOS 2020 had to happen.

Modeled after the University’s nationally recognized Alternative Spring Break (ASB) program, HUDOS is a service-learning experience that allows Howard University students to discover the power of ethical leadership and civic responsibility.

Shaping history and disrupting the status quo is not new to Howard students. They’ve walked the same halls, and, in some instances, learned from the same professors as trailblazers and luminaries including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Elijah Cummings, Amiri Baraka, Andrew Young, Vernon Jordan, Cathy Hughes, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and, of course, Kamala Harris the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be on a major party ticket as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

Although there are many promises that this nation has not yet delivered on, and more than enough news headlines to evoke sadness, HBCU students across the world continue to bring us solace and hope for a more just and inclusive society.

“Establishing the first virtual community service project of this magnitude was a daunting task, said Andreya J. Davis, assistant dean for faith-based and community initiatives. “And yet, we knew that this virtual Day of Service was necessary for our communities and our more than 1,000 participants. I am grateful for the space that Dean Richardson, Howard University and the Office of the Dean of the Chapel creates for this type of work, and for our selfless student leaders, and the participants who trusted us. This is #GoodTrouble.”

For more information about the faith exploration, community service, and social justice programs offered by the Office of the Dean of the Chapel at Howard University, please visit chapel.howard.edu or email chapel@howard.edu