Breaking the Ice: Howard University Forms the First HBCU Figure Skating Team

Breaking the Ice: Howard University Forms the First HBCU Figure Skating Team

At Howard University, a place well known for its legacy of "firsts" and groundbreaking achievements, history is being made once again. In the world of figure skating, where grace and precision meet on the ice, the university has added another remarkable milestone to its already illustrious list of accomplishments. Meet Maya James and Cheyenne Walker, two driven and passionate students at Howard University who, like many before them, found themselves facing a pivotal decision. This decision was one that countless students confront—a choice between pursuing higher education at a prestigious Historically Black College or University (HBCU) or continuing the pursuit of a lifelong passion for figure skating.

Yet, Maya and Cheyenne are no ordinary students, and Howard University is no ordinary institution. True to the spirit of Howard University's tradition of breaking barriers and setting new standards, they decided to forge a path of their own. In an inspiring display of determination, vision, and a commitment to both their HBCU and their love for figure skating, they embarked on a journey that would ultimately lead to the creation of the nation's first HBCU Figure Skating Team.

A Legacy of Firsts

Howard University has a rich history of being at the forefront of change and progress. For instance, it was the first HBCU to establish a law school back in 1869, led by John Mercer Langston, with just six students at the outset. This pioneering move laid the foundation for future generations of Black lawyers, including the historic appointment of Thurgood Marshall as the nation's first Black United States Supreme Court Justice—a testament to Howard's enduring legacy.

Howard also left its mark in the television industry with the founding of Howard University Television, WHUT-TV, in 1980. It was the first African-American-owned public television station in the nation and the first public station in the United States to be licensed to and operated by an HBCU—Howard University itself.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, HBCU medical schools, including Howard University Medical School, played a pivotal role in advancing healthcare education. What set Howard's medical school apart was its inclusivity, as it welcomed students of all backgrounds, regardless of race or gender. This inclusive approach not only diversified the medical field but also underscored Howard's commitment to breaking barriers.

From the establishment of the first HBCU law school to the pioneering achievements in the television industry and the inclusive philosophy of its medical school, Howard University has consistently led the way in shattering barriers and paving the path for others. Today, with the creation of the HBCU Figure Skating Team, Howard continues to uphold its legacy of pursuing excellence and pioneering change.

From Childhood Dreams to Campus Realities

Maya James and Cheyenne Walker both started on the ice as children, both of them taking their first steps into the world of figure skating around seven years old. When they arrived at Howard University, a campus known as an academic and cultural Mecca for Black students, they both felt a strong longing to return to the ice. Even in the absence of a figure skating program, their passion for the sport burned brightly.

Determined to combine their love for figure skating with their commitment to their HBCU, Maya and Cheyenne independently began to contemplate the idea of creating a figure skating team at Howard. Their paths converged when Maya reached out to Cheyenne through Instagram during winter break in 2022. What followed was a collaboration that would set the stage for history. With Maya as president and Cheyenne as vice president, they embarked on a mission to establish the Howard University Figure Skating Team.

Creating an intercollegiate figure skating team at an HBCU came with its own set of challenges. First of all, Figure skating is not considered a Division 1 sport, so convincing the university to set aside funds for it was no easy task. However, their motivation extended beyond personal achievement; it was about making figure skating accessible to everyone, especially within the HBCU community.

Building a Community of Skaters

To build their team, Maya and Cheyenne used the power of social media and participated in the school's student association fair to recruit skaters. While some of the recruits had previous skating experience, many were taking their first steps on the ice. The vision of inclusivity and accessibility in figure skating was quickly becoming a reality.

As the Howard University Figure Skating Team prepares for its first official season, their goals extend beyond the ice. They aim to create a space where everyone, regardless of their background, can feel a sense of belonging within the sport of figure skating. Their journey symbolizes the ethos of Howard University—a commitment to excellence, inclusivity, and paving the way for future generations.

In celebrating the achievements of the Howard University Figure Skating Team, we acknowledge that they are not just making history on the ice; they are also carrying forward the legacy of firsts that defines Howard University. As the temperatures drop and the holiday season approaches, it's the perfect time to consider a trip to the ice rink. And what better way to do that than by wearing your HBCU Leggings? Whether you're an avid skater or just trying it out as something new, these leggings are the perfect companion for a day in your skates. Plus, they make for a fantastic gift for the ice skater in your life, ensuring they stay warm and comfortable throughout the holiday season. Show your support for your HBCU while embracing the joy of skating, and celebrate the achievements of the Howard University Figure Skating Team by visiting today.

What do Howard University's remarkable "firsts" among HBCUs mean to you? We'd love to hear your thoughts and stories. Whether it's a personal connection to Howard University or an inspiring HBCU story you'd like to share, your voice matters.

Send us a shout-out at to tell us about your unique perspective, experiences, or any other aspect of HBCU pioneering legacy that resonates with you.

Bibi Mama is a first generation Beninese-American actress born and raised in Mansfield, CT. Growing up she watched her father, an English professor and author, continue the Yoruba oral tradition through storytelling, which inspired her. She earned her B.F.A. from Howard University and recently finished her MFA at the Old Globe/University of San Diego MFA Graduate Acting Program.
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