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Blacks should be first line of defense for HBCUs

By James Clingman
On March 10, 2014

  • Black people have the collective financial resources and the intellectual capacity to preserve our HBCUs. howard.edu

(TriceEdneyWire.com) - This series on HBCUs prompted a two-hour long discussion on the Carl Nelson Show in Washington, D.C. (WOL-1450). As the invited guest, I had the opportunity to deal with the issue of whether we value HBCUs enough to help save them. On the very next day St. Augustine College, in Raleigh, NC, was said to be in dire financial straits and would shut down for a week. We have answered the "what" question; we have heard from the "so what?" crowd; we are now faced with the final question: "now what?"

 Do we take responsibility for HBCUs, or do we allow them to flounder to the point of nonexistence? Do we leave them to the will and largess of government? Do we sit back and say, "somebody will fix the problem someday?" As I once heard a preacher say, "somebody is not in the phone book and someday is not on the calendar."
Bill Cosby (Central State), Willie Gary (Shaw), Oprah Winfrey (Morehouse), and others have shown what an individual can do for an HBCU; imagine what our collective efforts could do.
Black people should be the first line of defense for Black schools. Yes, with all of their challenges, they are still our schools, and we must preserve them. If we contributed more, had better relationships with administrators, and promoted HBCUs more, they would be more accountable, responsible, responsive, and financially sound. Yes, they must be good stewards of their financial resources, but we can be partners in that stewardship.
We are quick to romanticize the past and celebrate schools like Wiley College in "The Great Debaters." We like to visit HBCUs and watch our students "stomp the yard," high-step in the marching bands, play football and basketball at the CIAA Tournament, and sing in the choirs. We love to see HBCU students perform in stage plays and in spoken word sessions; and those honorary degrees are great, too. Most of all, we love to see our children graduate, many of who would not have been able to were it not for an HBCU. Where is that same love for HBCUs when it comes to our giving back to them?
Well folks, this is what some would call a "kairos moment" for Black people. We can save our schools if we have the will to do so. We have the financial resources and we have the intellectual capacity to solve this lingering problem, or at least to be able to come to the rescue when necessary. Our abandoning HBCUs is tantamount to what we did to our Black-owned businesses back in the 1960s. You don't have to look too far to see the results of that self-inflicted wound; take a stroll around your neighborhood and start counting the Black stores.
Short of going to HBCUs, Black athletes should hire Black agents, accountants, real estate reps, insurance agents, and other Black businesspersons through whom some of the their dollars could be circulated and maybe find their way to HBCU coffers. Collectively, Black athletes, HBCU grads or not, could also create an endowment for HBCU's.
Entrepreneurs, entertainers, scientists, engineers, doctors, dentists, and you name it, came out of HBCUs. Can you say Oprah? Tom Joyner? Spike Lee? Common? Alice Walker? Toni Morrison? Pulitzer Prize winner Colbert King? Physics expert Evelynn Hammonds? Millions of other HBCU lesser-known grads are contributing to this society as a result of their HBCU education. Sounds like a pretty good list for another huge endowment. Non-HBCU alumni, rapper/producer Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine gave $70 million, much of which was earned from Black consumers, to USC, where relative few Blacks attend. Dillard University President, Walter M. Kimbrough, was absolutely correct to ask, "Why not an HBCU?"
From Howard University, to St. Augustine, to Barber Scotia, our schools need our support - in many forms. Are we going to love them or leave them? Their fate is in our hands, our minds, and in our pockets. 


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