Mikhail Furnance inks his experiences at Morehouse College in the first book of a series featuring HBCUs.

Author Mikhail Furnace of ‘A Different House,’ recalls college days at Morehouse and the impact of HBCUs

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Poetry book series celebrates HBCUs in a creative collection written and curated by brothers.

Long before Issa Rae’s HBO show, Insecure, featured an old-style apartment complex in Inglewood, on a small nondescript street lived Mikhail Furnace and his twin brothers, Kian and Roshia. With migrant parents—a strict mother and stoic father from the Deep South—they expected their children to get a solid education and make a mark in the world. So they did.

Now, Mikhail, a polyglot educator who recently entered into the tech space, and his siblings, both of whom work in educational and social services, wanted to bring a slice of their experiences to young folk—that is their time at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs. With the re-emergence of interest in HBCUs, Mikhail, a Morehouse College graduate, and his brothers, who both attended Wilberforce University, pooled their creative juices and superpowers to share their experiences in a series of children’s poetry books celebrating HBCUs.

“A Different House: My Morehouse Experience,” the first book in a series authored by Mikhail, reflects on his unique time at Morehouse College. A private, historically black men’s liberal arts college in Atlanta, it is one of the flagship HBCUs in a lineage of institutions created to educate Black people after the Civil War, and in the midst of the country’s profound racial segregation.

“There are several layers to “A Different House,” Mikhail said. “The first is an appeal to highlight the diverse skill sets of Morehouse men and their impact, whether it is in the arts, politics, social justice, religion, economics or athletics.” The second layer is to “to serve as a resource for educators as they prepare students for higher education,” explains Mikhail.

We influence all grammar and fashion. 

Here’s the question that I’m asking. 

Where can you learn from Ph.D.’s who are black? No parents? 

The teachers willingly fill in the gaps. 

Get ya mind right and keep you on track. 

We couldn’t learn in their schools, that’s a fact.

Written entirely in narrative poetry, the book is a cadenced history lesson on HBCUs in general. It also serves as a nostalgic stimulant for HBCU alumni, and stirs the curiosity of the unacquainted. Morehouse specific, it is Mikhail’s intention to present open-ended moments, where alumni can share with their sons, nephews and grandchildren the nuances of their respective experiences.

Additionally, the book pays tributes to notable Morehouse alumni from director Spike Lee and Senator Raphael Warnock to baseball great Don Clendenon and others. “If we see the HBCU landscape as fertile ground, our children should be the seeds that populate these lands, nurtured and mentored by alumni, so that these institutions can expand on what the founders created,” Mikhail said.

A Different World

Dillard University’s 150th Founding Founders’ Day Convocation in Lawless Memorial Chapel on October 20, 2019. Dr. Ruth Simmons, ’67, the first Black Ivy League president and president of Prairie View A&M University, spoke at the event. Photo credit: Sabree Hill/Dillard University Photographer on Flickr

Mikhail began his career as a high school Spanish instructor after graduating from Morehouse. He earned his Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies from California State University. He has also served as an interpreter and college sports official. 

As an educator, Mikhail noticed there was an absence of resources available for black children to gain a broader and more diverse perspective on black history, which led him to write “A Different House.” Designed for children ages 6 to 13, the poetry book also serves as a resource for college and career readiness programs, as well as, for parents who want their child to attend an HBCU.

“In the end, it is my intention to show how this institution has contributed to educating the types of males who actually strive to make their communities and in turn, America, great,” he said.

| Read: How we see us: Women’s perspectives of Newark’s arts scene

Other books in the series will focus on Howard University, Tuskegee, Wilberforce University, and bilingual stories written in English and Spanish. Taking the independent route, the series is published by Mikhail and his brothers’ company, Magnificent Brothers Press, a literary company and educational resource seeking to repave the Black male perspective from childhood to adulthood. One of the cool ways that they offer small bits of learning is on their website. A page on the Magnificent Brothers Press site is a digital word search game dedicated to contents from the book. 

While Mikhail is not the only poet in the family, his brother Kian has a book of poems titled, After the Snap, Mikhail is using his love for stanzas as a pedagogical tool. “Sometimes you’ve got to break down knowledge into nuggets,” he shares.

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