HBCU Alumni will be thrilled to learn that the week of August 30 through September 5, 2009 is officially National HBCU Week. The White House released a proclamation from the President officiating the week and praising HBCUS for spawning some of America’s most notorious Black leaders.
“For more than 140 years, HBCUs have released the power of knowledge to countless Americans. Graduates of HBCUs have gone on to shape the course of American history-from W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, to Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall. Today, in twenty States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin_Islands, these colleges and universities are serving hundreds of thousands of students from every background and have contributed to the expansion of the African American middle class, to the growth of local communities, and to our Nation’s overall economy…”
Obama also made note that with the help of HBCUs he expects America to have the highest proportion of college graduates 11 years from now, saying that HBCUs will help “employ new, innovative and ambitious strategies.”
“This week, we celebrate the accomplishments of HBCUs_and look to the future with conviction and optimism. These institutions will play a key role in reaching our ambitious national education goals, including having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. As our Nation strives toward this goal, we invite HBCUs to employ new, innovative, and ambitious strategies to help the next generation of Americans successfully complete college and prepare themselves for the global economy. During National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, we recommit ourselves to never resting until equality is real, opportunity is universal, and all citizens can realize their dreams.”
While Obama is busy singing the praises to Black Colleges and Universities, others are too but they do see the area for some improvements and drastic overhauls if they intend to survive in the 21st century. Accomplished Black scholar and Syracuse University professor, Boyce Watkins told HipHopWired he thinks HBCUs no longer “exist” and are being taken over by non-Black professors.
“We still need them. I think HBCUs are a critical part of the Black community but the problem with HBCUs right now is that if you go on most of these campuses, the HBCUs have become plantations. Just like the prison system, just like the school system. A lot of these HBCUs don’t have a lot of African-American professors. If you go to most of these HBCUs and you major in something like engineering, you might go to school for four years and never have an African American teacher. What happened is we think these schools are standing up for the Black community where you learn to be Black and all that and to some extent you’re learning it because you got Black classmates and you have some Black administrators, but many of these HBCUs are not hiring Black professors. A lot of prominent Black scholars get criticized because they don’t teach at HBCUs but the untold story is that a lot of them can’t get jobs at HBCUs because when they go to apply for the job, there’s an Asian man or an Indian man who puts that person’s name at the bottom of the list for applicants because they want to hire somebody else from China.
So that’s what people need to look at when it comes to HBCUs is the fact that Black people don’t control them anymore. (Laughs) So the question is what is an HBCU anyway? I don’t even think HBCUs exist anymore. There really are no HBCUs. There are a couple of them that have a Black presence like Morehouse has a little bit of a Black presence, Spelman, some of the top schools absolutely. They’re still there, it can’t be denied but people need to go look at the numbers. Go do a tour of the HBCUs, go to the science department and see how many African-American professors you find. When I looked at a lot of HBCUs for example in the field of business, there were a lot HBCUs I saw that did not have one single African-American male professor in the entire business school. Out of 80 faculty, not one of them was an African-American male. So what’s the point of even going to an HBCU if you’re not even being taught by African Americans?”
By contrast, political activist and radio talk show host, Warren Ballentine, offered a different opinion, saying that HBCUS are less expensive and more accepting of Black students than predominantly white institutions.
“Man we need as many as we can get because we have a lot of HBCU’s that are accepting children to go to college that big universities will simply not accept. The price of the education is so much cheaper, you have a faculty and staff that want the student to do well, you’re not just a number. When you go to these big universities, and you go to a biology class, there may be 160 people in there. If you go to a Black college there may be 25 in there including you and your professor. You know your professor and your professor knows you and that makes a world of difference. Now some of these HBCU’s are failing academically so they need to uphold their end of the bargain, but this memo that everything is post racial after Barack became President, I didn’t get that memo. We are fools if we believe that we need to get rid of HBCU’s. I’m a strong supporter of HBCU’s and I think we need to be popping up with more of them than trying to get rid of the ones that we have.”
Despite opposing views on their relevancy, HBCU attendees and Alumni can revel in the national spotlight they’ll receive this week. It should be duly noted however that his is not the first National Historically Black College Week in history. In 1987, Ronald Reagan declared September 21 through September 27 National HBCU Week and Bill Clinton deemed September 19-25, the same in 1994.
In keeping with the celebration of the week, BET is kicking off its annual Black College Tour. The tour is sponsored by Microsoft, Microsoft X Box, Verizon Wireless, Def Jam Recordings, The U.S. Air Force and Sierra Mist. The tour begins Wednesday September 5 at Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama and will give HBCU students a chance to compete in games like a 2 on 2 basketball tournament and catch performances from celebrities like Ace Hood and Playaz Circle.
The Black College Tour schedule is as follows:
Miles College Wednesday, September 2
Delaware State University Wednesday September 9
Morgan State University Friday, September 11
North Carolina A&T State Friday, September 18
Alabama A&M University Friday, September 25
Jackson State University Friday, October 2
Fayetteville State University Wednesday, October 7
Winston-Salem State University Friday, October 16
Florida A&M University Wednesday, October 21
Grambling State University Friday, October 30
Xavier University Wednesday, November 4
Southern University Friday, November 6
Texas Southern University Wednesday, November 11
Prairie View A&M University