Twerk, Hampton, Twerk

Armstrong-Slater building at Hampton University

Some 13 years ago, the Yin Yang Twins dropped "Whistle While You Twerk." It was played on every urban radio station, every music channel on television, and yes, every college party around the country. From Juvenile to Lil' Jon, that was the golden era of "Dirty South" party music and any deejay who wanted to get a crowd jumping knew that set had to be in the rotation.  

Back in that day, I was an 18-year-old freshman at Hampton University, trying to navigate the post-high school adjustment period and make sure I wasn't wasting my family's money. And while planning my class schedule and learning how to live without Mom's home-cooked meals were a big part of my agenda, getting on the university's social scene was equally critical. If you didn't leave Holland Hall, the Legion, the Chesnut or the NorVa with your top soaking wet, you weren't partying. And yes, there was twerking. 

So when a photo surfaced yesterday of a Power Point presentation from freshman orientation at Hampton outlining the university's thoughts on the cause and effect of twerking, it left me laughing and scratching my head at the same damn time. 

My first thought was "Really?" The second was "Really?" And the third, "No, really?"

I think I speak for many of my peers when I say that the fascination and mainstream attention twerking has received the last few months has been mind boggling and downright laughable. It's a dance that folks have been doing since my childhood. We didn't need Miley and her ineptitude to put it on the map—it was already there. 

Before I go any further, let me make it clear that I love my alma mater. My four years there were, without a doubt, the best years of my life. Aside from the fact that I made friendships and developed relationships that will last a lifetime, I received an education that prepared me for life after college and connections that many would covet.

This is certainly not the first time my beloved Hampton has come under fire for its rules. Trust me, I get it. Thanks to the freshman curfew, to the anti-durag policy, to the business school's ban on dreadlocks, Hampton is often perceived as a bougie, no-fun institution that doesn't allow its students the freedom to fully express themselves and enjoy the college experience other campuses may afford. But looking back, I understand it. I get the lessons of life Dr. Harvey and others were trying to prepare us for. And I thank them for it. 

But to suggest that twerkin', backin' it up or dropping it low makes students—especially the young women to whom this message was targeted—less desirable and unlikely to be taken home to mom by the men of James, Harkness and Pierce is just flat out naive and silly.

I had to smile watching some of my fellow Hamptonians discuss this on various social media networks yesterday. It appeared very clear to me that in the midst of the success and progression that many of us have experienced since our days by the sea, a case of convenient amnesia has developed among a few and the 401ks and advanced degrees have forced some to forget how it was when DJ Vince dropped "Say I Yi Yi." I get it, though. 

Someone asked me yesterday if I would send my daughter to Hampton to twerk.  That's just silly. While few parents would revel in seeing their children do a sexualized dance, I'd expect her to have fun, party, make friends and do stupid things (within reason) that we all did during our 4-5 years we spent in undergrad. I'd want her to feel free to explore the opportunities that Ebony Fire and Majestic presented. And although what those ladies did wasn't twerking, it was dancing in a way that only a Black woman can do. And we appreciated and admired them for it. 

Some of the most beautiful women I've seen, many of whom are good friends of mine, sweated it out, dropped it low and yes, twerked on that hallowed Hampton ground. And those same women are letting their lives do the singing now in their careers, marriages and motherhood. We look back and laugh about it at homecoming, but never forget. 

Lest we forget that college is not just about receiving an education for life, but having just a little bit of fun and doing things we'd never tell our parents. And so long as they indulge in their less-than-elder friendly persuits in the proper way—what happens at the house party should stay at the house party, not on Vine, then there's no reason for us to suggest that these kids are ruining their chances at the sort of life we want for them—happiness, career, family—because of some booty popping. 

So I hope Hamptonians now