When I received the opportunity to interview rising R&B singer DaVionne for my radio show & podcast HBCU Pulse Radio, I was excited. It's not every day that you have the opportunity to interview a Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter as they are in the upswing of their career. But I wondered, “Why would DaVionne want to do an interview with me on HBCU Pulse Radio”?

It's an understandable question given her status in the industry. The R&B mega talent just released her debut EP Good Grief, a five-song project that perfectly encapsulates the emotions of love and relationships with witty writing, amazing vocals, and sleek production. Her impressive songwriting credentials include frequent collaborations with rapper J. Cole, extending to her contributions on his latest project, “Might Delete Later.” She was recently a part of the Alicia Keys songwriting camp for She Is The Music and was featured in the “Uncharted” documentary and is currently a part of the Tidal Rising Program. She is making it happen, using her talents to unlock doors to further expand her dreams of music stardom.

So, I pondered again, “Why would DaVionne want to do an interview with me on HBCU Pulse Radio?”

Within minutes of meeting her, I understood her deep ties to HBCU culture. Her sister is an Albany State University graduate which gave her an entryway into the Black College Experience.

“So, shout out to my sister, DeVynne. She went to Albany State. Before I decided what I wanted to pursue in college – whether it was music or something else – I was always drawn to HBCUs over PWIs. I just love HBCUs; my sister is an alum, and it's incredibly important to me. HBCUs are imperative for our community, our education, and understanding our roots to guide our future. We don't get that from other institutions. I'm a big fan; a lot of the sauce comes from HBCUs, you know? All the sauce stems from the young, fresh Black talent and communities. I've always been a fan of the culture.”

The revelation of her sister being an Albany State alumna intrigued me. I'm a proud graduate of Fort Valley State, which has a historic school rivalry with Albany State that culminates in the Fountain City Classic in Columbus, Georgia every November. Both Albany State and Fort Valley State are two of the cultural epicenters of HBCU life in Georgia, boasting significant history and brilliant students who go on to affect change in the world. Clearly, her sister took her to a couple of Fountain City Classic games and homecomings, allowing DaVionne to see the black college experience firsthand and the sense of community that it provides.

And DaVionne sees the success of HBCU alumni firsthand. Her sister DeVynne Starks is the co-founder of the ride-share app HerRide, created with the mission of prioritizing the safety and empowerment of women. Stars created the business with fellow Albany State alumna Jillian Anderson. They met each other on campus and their friendship turned into a fruitful business partnership.

In 2023, HerRide facilitated a partnership with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which Airport Technology reported as the busiest airport in the world. Their idea and success are a testament to the sense of community that you receive at a black college, meeting amazing, like-minded people who will forever make an impact on your life.

During our conversation, DaVionne even said that she wished she had attended an HBCU.

“I've always said if I did go to school, it would have been an HBCU. No question about it. I really try, even now, sometimes I get a little sad because I miss the opportunity to connect with like-minded people who are in the same place in life, in school, and in our past experiences. There are so many parallels that we have when in school, and sometimes we don't see the opportunity. But now, you see alums from amazing HBCUs and remember the time when [you were] there, able to be a visionary, connect with peers, and take things to the next level. What started as an idea blossomed into a whole ecosystem of opportunity. So, take advantage because it's really there, right under your nose.”

Taking advantage of opportunities is something that she stressed in her advice to aspiring HBCU musicians. At the age of 24, DaVionne clearly understands the dichotomy of trying to get into the industry and finding an opportunity to make a way for yourself. There are many talented rappers, singers, songwriters, and producers walking the campuses of HBCUs.

DaVionne implored those students to stay focused on their goals in their journey.

“We focus on virality and the TikTok ability and all these things, right? It depends on the kind of artist you want to be because sometimes the kind of artist you're looking to be is in that realm, and if that's the case, you could do that right from your dorm, right from where you are, right from wherever it is in whatever halls that you can do that. But for me, I wanted to pursue something that had longevity and that would be able to sustain the test of time. So for me, it's about embracing and even recognizing and identifying your unique path.

“Like, where do you want to take it? So you can figure out the steps you need to take to get there. And then again, about balancing, like, when you're in school, you've got classes, you've got exams, you've got study hall, you've got all these things. And it's like, yes, school takes precedence, but not only in school, but once you graduate, you're going to have to learn how to juggle work with life, work with social skills, work with family time.”

She also spoke about using the network that is available to them on their campus.

“Where do I need to go? Who can I connect with in my classes or who is in my immediate stratosphere that's doing what I'm trying to do? How can I build my community? How can I network? How can I work with these people and build our portfolios? Luckily for HBCUs and HBCU culture, that camaraderie is built into the DNA of how the schools operate. So, find people who, if you're a rapper or a singer, find you an engineer or find somebody that can help you work rooms as a potential manager, or find me somebody who is a producer and work together.”

DaVionne's album Good Grief is available now on all streaming platforms.