Black Colleges Become Sanctuaries After Ferguson
By: Donovan X. Ramsey – The National Journal – September 10, 2015 Reblogged byhttp://www.civilrightsagenda.com
COURTESY MOREHOUSE COLLEGE OFFICE OF COMMUNICATIONS (Population 2043: Each month, Next America visits a different community to explore how it is responding to changing demography.)
In the midst of a terse national conversation about police violence against Black Americans came news that Morehouse College, my alma mater and the nation’s only all-male historically Black college, welcomed one of its largest freshman classes.
Morehouse is not alone in seeing a surge in admissions in the past year. EDU Inc., which administers Common Black College, an online tool used to apply to 42 of the more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities with a single form, processed 10 percent more applications for the 2015-2016 school year than last year. President Robert Mason says that after a year of news of police killings of young Black Americans, Black students—Black males in particular—are looking for safe spaces.
Newsweek has run two pieces in the past few weeks declaring “Black Colleges Matter.” Aside from debating the academic value of HBCUs and documenting their traditions, which The New York Times did recently, it’s important that these schools are also acknowledged for the unique safety and security they offer young Black people.
“I think it can reasonably be concluded that safety factors into the decision-making process when students are deciding what college to attend,” Mason said. “I would contend that the heightened sense of fear concerning the safety of Black males has given impetus to parents now employing the same kind of logic that is used to determine if a college and the surrounding area is safe enough to allow their daughters to attend. Before the increased media coverage of violence against Black males and the national dialogue that has ensued, I don’t think safety was as much of a concern for black males when deciding what college to attend.”
“Behind these gates, I feel so safe. I really do. I feel like black people in America have an understanding between each other and there’s relative safety among the group. ”
NATE ERVIN, MOREHOUSE FRESHMAN
In February, actress Taraji P. Henson made headlines when she told Uptown Magazinethat she was transferring her son to her alma mater after he’d been racially profiled at the University of Southern California.
“So guess where he’s going? Howard University,” she told Uptown. “I’m not paying $50K so I can’t sleep at night wondering is this the night my son is getting racially profiled on campus.”
Following Henson’s revelation, Essence conducted a poll asking parents if they prefer that their children attend an HBCU. Nearly 80 percent said “yes.”
In his first address to the class of 2019, Morehouse President John S. Wilson spoke of the challenges and dangers black men face. “According to The New York Times, there are 1.5 million missing black men in this country,” he pointed out. “When you were in ninth grade, there were 320,000 black boys with you, nationally. Roughly only 160,000 graduated from high school. And of those, only about 50,000 applied to a four-year college.”
Drummers from Howard University’s Marching Band perform during the National Urban League’s ‘Drum Majors for Justice Future Leaders Celebration’ commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington at Freedom Plaza. SAUL
One of the most moving moments during their orientation week at Morehouse is the Parent Parting Ceremony in which incoming freshmen, their parents, alumni and Morehouse officials assemble in the chapel. Parents are asked to release their sons into the hands of “Mother Morehouse.” The community makes a pledge to care for the new students, and parents are instructed to depart immediately after. Many families shed tears during the ritual.
Nate Ervin, 18, entered Morehouse this fall to study political science. He applied to eight schools, four HBCUs and four predominantly white institutions. He was accepted to all of them but says he chose to attend Morehouse because of its focus on uplifting black men.
“ I would contend that the heightened sense of fear concerning the safety of black males has given impetus to parents now employing the same kind of logic that is used to determine if a college and the surrounding area is ‘safe’ enough to allow their daughters to attend. ”
ROBERT MASON, EDU INC. PRESIDENT
“Behind these gates, I feel so safe. I really do,” says Ervin. “I feel like black people in America have an understanding between each other and there’s relative safety among the group.”
Danielle Brogdon, 18, is studying media, film and journalism at Howard with a minor in African-American studies. She says she thought about studying at New York University or Northwestern, but was attracted to Howard for its network of alumni in media but for its protections.
“I have a friend in school in Nashville and she was telling me how she’s worried,” says Brogdon. “Nashville is not the blackest community and it’s in the South. She feels like she has to be extra aware of who’s around her and how she interacts. She’s worried about things like how her school would protect her if she was in an al Morehouse students attend an event on campus.
In a society that desperately wants to be post-racial, many ask if HBCUs are still relevant. It’s this sentiment that perhaps has allowed for a mass divestment from HBCUs in the 21st century. In fact, despite the continued and very evident need for HBCUs in educating black students, the federal government has been slowly chipping away at funding in recent years.
Indeed, I have never felt more secure as a black man than I did as a student on Morehouse’s campus.
As the nation’s only institution of higher education founded to serve us, it is a rare space where black men are not vulnerable because of their blackness. On the contrary, at Morehouse and other HBCUs, black men and women are protected – by a campus police force no less. On campus – and for the first time in my life – I was free to run full speed without causing alarm. I raised my voice in public, asserted myself without inciting panic. My blackness did not render me suspicious or scary. I could inhabit every square inch of my six-foot, 200-pound body without risking my life.
HBCUs are rare American institutions in that they are maintained for the affirmation, advancement and protection of black life. In a society in which young black people, men and women, have their lives cut short every day by incarceration and violence – state or otherwise – the schools are sanctuaries from a world at war with black bodies.
In his bestselling book, Between the World and Me, author Ta-Nehisi Coates describes his experience at his HBCU alma mater in such terms. Addressing his teenage son, Coates writes, “My only Mecca was, is, and shall always be Howard University. I have tried to explain this to you many times. You say you hear me, that you understand, but I am not sure that the force of my Mecca—The Mecca—can be translated into your new eclectic tongue. I am not even sure that it should be… And still, I maintain that even for a cosmopolitan boy like you, there is something to be found there — a base, even in these modern times, a port in the American storm.”
In a society in which young black people, men and women, have their lives cut short every day by incarceration and violence – state or otherwise – the schools are sanctuaries from a world at war with black bodies.
Donovan X. Ramsey, a multimedia journalist, is currently a Demos Emerging Voices Fellow.
HBCUs, with about an eighth of the average endowment of other institutions and half receiving no federal funding, operate primarily on revenue from tuition. Those students, however, rely heavily on federal loan and grant programs to afford college, with more than seven out of every 10 HBCU students receiving Pell grants. An equal share takes out federal loans—about 20 percent higher than the national average. This means that HBCUs are deeply impacted by changes in federal financial aid policy.
In 2011, the Department of Education reduced the total number of semesters for which students could receive Pell grants from 18 to 12 semesters. The cut was felt deeply at HBCUs where students, on average, take longer to graduate. The same year, the DoE also tightened eligibility for Parent PLUS loans, a form of aid used in great number by HBCU students and families to finance their education. These sudden, simultaneous changes created a crisis on HBCU campuses around the country. According to analysis by the United Negro College Fund, an estimated 28,000 HBCU students were denied loans in 2012, resulting in a collective loss of about $155 million in tuition revenue—reducing institutional budgets by 35 percent.
In 2010, the year before the cuts, HBCUs experienced their highest levels of enrollment in the nearly 40 years the Department of Education has been keeping track. In 2010, 265,908 students were enrolled at HBCUs across the country. That number has declined steadily every school year since.
Last month, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton announced a proposal to perhaps undo some of that damage by creating a dedicated $25 billion fund to support to private nonprofit schools that serve low-income students, of which private HBCUs are an example.
Apple Pledges $40 Million to HBCUs in Scholarships and Support
The tech company wants to recruit and retain talented black students, offering $25,000 and an internship.
To be sure, HBCUs are not perfect institutions and certainly are not sacrosanct because they serve a beleaguered population.
They’re worth protecting and supporting, however, because they punch above their weight when it comes to graduating low-income students and students of color. The more than 100 HBCUs around the country enroll nearly 10 percent of of black undergraduates but award 16 percent of the bachelor’s degrees earned by black Americans,according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In addition, HBCUs produce 70 percent of all black dentists and doctors, 50 percent of black engineers and public school teachers, and 35 percent of black lawyers, according to stats from the UNCF.
Marcellis Wilburn, 18, says he chose Howard because he wanted to pursue a career in criminal justice. Thurgood Marshall’s alma mater, he thought, would be a smart place to begin the road to becoming a prosecutor then judge.
“I’ve always been interested in going to Howard because of its law school,” says Wilburn.
He says that monitoring high-profile incidents of police brutality over the past year informed his view of the criminal justice system and made him worry more about his safety in interacting with police officers.
“A typical traffic stop could be a life or death situation, because police are getting out of hand with African-American men and women,” says Wilburn. “I feel safer on Howard’s campus than I probably would on another campus because, here at Howard, our police officers and most of the officer who attend to certain situations are African American. I feel more comfortable.”
In a moment when the nation is finally focusing attention to the issue of police violence against black Americans, black colleges are being recognized for the relative safety they afford their students, ensuring that HBCUs will remain relevant as unique spaces for intellectual, psychological and physical freedom.
Glance at a football game held at a historically black college or university (HBCU) and you will have a tough time just focusing on the football players. The rhythm and excitement of the HBCU football game experience is found in the stands with the marching band. The loud boom of the drums, the pronounced sound of the percussion section and the catchy chants could only use one addition, and it is ever-present. We are referring to the vivacious, delightful, soul-spirited, and electrifying ladies of the Dance Lines.
The truth is, marching bands aren’t complete without them. For close to a century, the lines have taken marching band entertainment to the next level. Dance lines are visual expressions of each and every note heard from the band. As the ladies move and twerk, they motivate the entire crowd to celebrate the music. The ladies of dance lines cheer the crowd on without ever opening their mouth and their dances are often recycled into campus-wide traditions. From the captain to the rookie freshman, if she’s on the line, her moves are solid. Though they never go unnoticed, they rarely compete. We aren’t talking about at the Battle of the Bands or regional marching band battles, we are talking about a competition amongst the ladies… Dance Line to Dance Line. So we ask you, who do you think does it best?Top 5 HBCU Dance Lines/Teams coming soon.
Poll end date: February 28, 2015 @ 11:59pm
Poll end date: February 28, 2015 @ CLICK HERE TO VOTE FOR TOP 5 HBCU’S FINALISTS
10 Reasons HBCU Cheyney Alumni Are Suing Pennsylvania and the Federal Government | News | Philadelphia Magazine
Why Alumni Are Suing Pennsylvania and the Federal Government? Here’s what the federal civil rights lawsuit we filed today is about.
A coalition known as “Heeding Cheyney’s Call” (HCC), which consists of Cheyney University alumni, students, professors, staffers, and retirees, as well as community activists, religious leaders, and elected officials, today is suing the Commonwealth (full suit below) for continuing what we believe are decades-long civil rights violations against this great school.
HCC is also suing the federal government, claiming that it’s stood idly by and enabling those violations by doing nothing to stop them. You want proof? Here’s the good, i.e., Cheyney’s greatness, the bad, i.e., racial discrimination, and the ugly, i.e., well, that’s the previously mentioned racial discrimination stuff.
Let me count the ways: All 10 of’ ’em:
1. Cheyney University, founded during slavery in 1837 right here in Philly as the African Institute (before changing its name to the Institute for Colored Youth), is the oldest black institution of higher education in America. No disrespect to Lincoln University, admittedly the oldest black college in America. But it was founded 17 years later as Ashmun Institute.
2. Cheyney has produced alumni like Julian Abele (architectural designer of the Philadelphia Free Library and the Art Museum), Ed Bradley (60 Minutes correspondent), Octavius Catto (martyred Philadelphia civil rights activist), Dr. Rebecca J. Cole (one of the first African-American female physicians in the country), Marcus Foster (nationally renowned educator), Joseph E. Lee, Esquire (one of the first African-Americans to practice law in Florida), Bayard Rustin (national civil rights activist), and Andre Waters (Philadelphia Eagles star).
3. Cheyney’s Masters in Educational Leadership program has been one of the nationally ranked leaders in producing Masters’ degrees in education for students of color, and one of the major producers of teacher and administrative leaders in the tri-state region, including Philadelphia.
4. Cheyney’s impressive undergraduate and graduate “Call Me MISTER” teacher leadership program encourages African-American men — who are much needed and woefully underutilized in the field of education — to dedicate their lives to becoming role models. The university’s outstanding “Teach STEM Scholarship Project” prepares African-American women to become highly qualified teachers who will change paradigms in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education through positive role-modeling and high tech innovation.
5. Cheyney’s extraordinary “Aquaculture Research and Education Center” meets the needs of the region’s critical waterways with the objective of training students to become professionals in various scientific areas in the U.S. and abroad.
6. Cheyney’s distinguished “Keystone Honors Academy” is a far-reaching academic excellence program that fosters intellectually enriching experiences for students with impressive GPAs. In addition, it positions students to receive Bond-Hill Scholarships that provide for complete tuition funding to attend state graduate programs in the fields of medicine, law, education, and business.
So why then is HCC filing this major federal civil rights lawsuit? Here’s why: Cheyney University, an all-time great institution, has an all-time low student enrollment and an all-time high budget deficit caused by:
- racial discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 Fordice decision proclaiming that states can be compelled to pursue corrective affirmative action to remedy discrimination against African-American students despite purported race-neutral policies;
- and Presidential Executive Order 12232 of 1980 issued “to overcome the discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically Black colleges and universities to provide quality education.”
These violations constitute the following bad and ugly facts:
7. The U.S. Department of Education’s predecessor, namely the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, determined in 1969 that Pennsylvania was one of only 10 states (including, e.g., the notorious culprits of Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia) still operating an illegal racially segregated system of higher education.
8. As recently as 1980, a successful racial discrimination lawsuit was filed against the Commonwealth by Cheyney students, faculty, and staff.
9. It wasn’t until 1983 that the Commonwealth — for the first time ever — finally submitted a formal anti-racial discrimination plan that was deemed acceptable by and to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) following repeated rejections.
10. In 1999, just 15 years ago, the Commonwealth signed a formal agreement with and at the request of OCR in order to resolve then-unresolved and still-unresolved issues regarding Cheyney as mandated by federal law.
HCC — through its lawsuit against the governor on the state level for unlawful commissions in engaging in discrimination, and the secretary of education on the federal level for unlawful omissions in refusing to enforce anti-discrimination laws — is seeking “parity through equity” so that the historic university can be placed on a level playing field in order to effectively compete with Pennsylvania’s always and unfairly much better-equipped 13 white state-owned universities.
For more information about the lawsuit and about HCC, go to HCC’s website atHeedingCheyneysCall.org or go to its Facebook page, or go to its Twitter feed at@heedingcheyneys. Or, if you’re the Governor or the Secretary, go get a lawyer.
Lincoln wrangles over fate of historic buildings
Brick buildings, some dating back to the 1800s, line the main street of the campus of Lincoln University, a school that has produced a Supreme Court justice, a leader of the Harlem Renaissance, and two presidents of African nations.
For a group of alumni, those buildings are historic emblems of the first degree-granting African American institution in the nation.
For the school’s administration, they are structures that may pose a financial hardship during tough budgetary times.
That is the core of a clash between the college administration and an alumni group formed to lobby for preservation of the buildings.
The university is considering demolishing four of its buildings constructed between 1865 and 1891, according to the school’s “Strategic Plan Report, 2013-18,” and its “Universal Campus Master Plan.”
The 20-member alumni group, called the Lincoln University Heritage Initiative, is proposing that a historic district be designated on the 422-acre campus. The district would be made up of 15 buildings – the four older buildings and 11 others built between 1866 and 1931.
“We have plans for an economically viable themed historic district with restaurants, shops, and exhibits that will educate the public about the importance of Lincoln,” said Carol Black, a 1967 graduate and president of the alumni group’s board of directors.
The school’s consideration of the buildings’ future is a product of the difficult decisions the university must make “about where to invest its limited financial resources,” said Kimberly A. Lloyd, chair of the school’s board of trustees, in a statement released Thursday.
No final decision has been made, the statement said. The university has initiated discussions with the National Trust for Historic Preservation about obtaining an assessment of the campus before deciding the buildings’ fate, the statement said.
That is a turnaround from just two weeks ago, when Black said she was told by Valerie Harrison, the school’s general counsel, that Lincoln had decided to demolish Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall, the oldest building on campus.
The saga began at an alumni meeting last year when Robert Jennings, Lincoln’s president, mentioned demolishing Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall to erect a new welcome center, Black said.
The hall, built in 1865, serves as the school’s security headquarters. It is named in honor of Lincoln graduates Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria after independence, and Kwame Nkrumah, first president of Ghana.
The alumni meeting propelled the group into action. Members began gathering documents, distributing petitions, and led a tour of the university for representatives of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which makes decisions about historic designations.
Monuments to history
In 1985, Lincoln was deemed eligible for a historic district that would include the 15 buildings, according to a 1997 letter written by Dan G. Deibler, then chief of the commission’s preservation services.
But the commission has no record of a National Register nomination for Lincoln University, Howard Pollman, a spokesman for the agency, said in an e-mail.
The plan for a “rebuilt” Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall is discussed in an article published April 21 in the Lincolnian, a school publication. Jennings refers to the new hall as a “gorgeous building” that would be ready for occupation by November 2016, the article said.
The building had been deemed so expensive to repair that the cost would exceed the price of erecting a new building.
On June 6, members of the university’s board and administration met with the alumni group that offered a 90-minute presentation on the proposed historic district, Black said.
Four days later, Black talked with Harrison, who said the demolition of Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall would go forward. On Thursday, Lloyd released the statement that the school planned to consult with the National Trust.
Other buildings listed as candidates for demolition include Cresson Hall (1870), Houston Hall (1881), and Bond House (1891), according to university plans.
Cresson Hall is described as a building with structural and environmental issues so severe that it should be demolished. Houston Hall, which is empty, is called unsafe.
Several other buildings erected after 1930 are also candidates for demolition.
Robert Ingram, a 1976 graduate, calls the structures monuments to the history of a university that has educated the likes of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, the Harlem Renaissance poet Langston Hughes, and thousands of others.
The buildings are too important to be torn down, said Ingram, a Baltimore publisher and vice president of the alumni group.
“These are the oldest buildings at the oldest historically black college or university,” Ingram, said. “The Harvards and Browns would never talk about tearing down their oldest buildings. What makes us any different?”
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/education/20140625_Lincoln_wrangles_over_fate_of_historic_buildings.html#BPxkIsR0mZ0gTot7.99
Posted: April 26, 2014
This is a great story about a young man who chose an HBCU over Harvard. Instead of the 16-year old genius Ralph Jones taking Harvard up on their offer, he chose Florida A&M University.
The story received national attention, but we have to ask ourselves: Are we naive to automatically assume that Ivy League Universities are better for black students than the leading HBCUs? Is a black woman out of Spelman any worse off than she would have been had she attended a
predominantly white university?
HBCUs do an amazing job of giving students confidence, a great college experience and a strong racial identity. At the same time, many students attending predominantly white universities leave the campuses feeling frustrated, disconnected and forced to assimilate.
The Financial Juneteenth angle of this story is that it might be time to let go of the idea that white universities are better for black children than HBCUs. This mindset of one that is reflective of white supremacy and always reminds us that in order to get a high quality product, we must put our lives and futures under the domain of our historical oppressors. This is almost NEVER a good personal investment.
Read the story below:
When a boy enters first grade at the age of 4 and high school at the age of 12, it’s a foregone conclusion that the child will end up at a Harvard or a Stanford or a Cornell. Right? Not if the boy is Ralph Jones Jr., a 16-year-old freshman at Florida A&M University who has received national attention in recent days for passing up opportunities at the 45 other schools that accepted him — including the prestigious institutions listed above — to attend the Tallahassee, Fla., HBCU.
Jones said that for him it wasn’t about whether or not a school was an Ivy League — he thought about location, scholarship offers, campus atmosphere and the institution’s engineering program in making his decision. “Entering college at the age of 16,” Jones told The Root, “I think that my motives behind choosing were a little bit different than other people’s. One, I looked at distance from home. Florida A&M is about 300 miles away from my hometown of Atlanta, so that was something that was really important to me, whereas if I had gone somewhere that was considered an Ivy, that would have been a good 2,000.”
The proximity is important because he is so much younger than the average freshman, he said. His parents have already had to drive down to his school twice from Atlanta to sign forms for him because of his age. He also said it’s long been one of his goals to go to college for free. Many of his top choices were either too far away or did not offer him a full ride. Harvard and Stanford, for example, offered him some money but not a full scholarship. Cornell and Kettering offered full scholarships but were too far away for his liking. Georgia Tech, his No. 1 choice, did not offer a full scholarship.