In this month’s roundup, HBCUs celebrate commencement, students fight back against underfunding and rezoning, and baseball student-athletes will play on a national stage.
May 10, 2023- June 13, 2023
Highlights from Commencement Season
Commencement is a special occasion for HBCUs as faculty, staff and students, along with their families and friends, celebrate everyone’s accomplishments. Many notable figures were invited to deliver advice and inspiration in their commencement speeches.
Oprah Winfrey addressed her alma mater, Tennessee State University, telling graduates, “there will never be anything in your life as fulfilling as making a difference in somebody else’s.” Oscar-winning costume designer, Ruth E. Carter, spoke at Hampton University encouraging graduates to “be a student of your profession, continue to improve your craft, and have faith in your foundation and make sacrifices today so your tomorrow is rewarded.” Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump spoke at Morgan State University, telling graduates to “take this great Morgan State University college education and take it back to the hood, to your homeboys, to your homegirls, to your cousins, your family.”
President Joe Biden was also invited to deliver the commencement address to Howard University, where his Vice President Kamala Harris is an alumna. Biden spoke on a number of issues during his commencement address, but offered encouragement and optimism to graduates. “You represent the best of us. Your generation will not be ignored, will not be shunned, will not be silenced. So on the hilltop high, keep standing for truth and right, and send your rays of light. Congratulations to you all. We need you.”
Discover the Unexpected
Ten students from HBCUs nationwide will participate in a 10-week marketing and communications internship with the National Newspaper Publication Association (NNPA) and Chevrolet. The internship is called the “Discover the Unexpected” program.
The ten students will gather in Detroit to collaborate with mentors and ambassadors from the NNPA who are HBCU alumni themselves. The program will focus on enhancing professional skills through innovative assignments and creating content through social media. The program will last from June to August. After which, the 10 interns will earn a total of $18,000 in scholarships and stipends.
Steve Majoros, chief marketing officer at Chevrolet, believes in the importance of mentorship and support to set students up for success in their future.
Students in Atlanta also received an opportunity to learn about the music industry from hip-hop icon T.I. An Atlanta native, T.I. (real name Clifford Harris) was joined by other music executives who spoke on the importance of education as part of a two-week music program.
T.I.’s advice for students included: “Your vision is your vision for a reason. It has been put on your brain and in your heart, it has been put on you to show the world what you have to offer. That is why it won’t be easy, it will be an uphill battle. It is so important because nobody can do it except you.”
A Lack of Funding
Six Florida A&M University students are suing the state of Florida for underfunding the institution, with more funding going towards Florida State University, the largest institution in the state.
The lawsuit, originally filed in September 2022, alleges that the state of Florida is in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits racially discriminatory funding among other laws.
Attorney Josh Dubin, who is representing the six FAMU students, said that this is a case of institutional racism. “There’s the failure to fund the school in proportion to traditionally white students and allow FAMU to essentially establish its own identity.”
One of the students, Britney Denton, said that FAMU students should not have to make the most of what funding they do receive. “There are bright and determined people here who deserve the same level of support and quality of resources as FSU next door or any other state school in Florida,” said Denton. “We’re proud to be here, and we want Florida to be proud to support us, and other HBCUs, equally.”
A Florida judge has allowed the case to go forward following oral arguments being heard earlier this month.
The Effects of Rezoning
Students and alumni of Shaw University were protesting in downtown Raleigh, NC, over the institution’s potential rezoning which affects future construction on campus. One of the main concerns of this rezoning is gentrification if part of campus is leased to retailers.
Protesters chanted “Save our Shaw” as they marched the streets, indicating a desire to keep Shaw University’s campus the way it is.
"We want to modernize but we don't want to commercialize our university," said Eugene Myrick, a Shaw alum who was part of the protest. Shaw University has a mosque on campus which could potentially be lost to rezoning, leaving Muslim students on campus without a place to gather and pray. Leaders of the mosque expressed their concern.
“I said, ‘Look, we’re not against redevelopment. We just want to make sure that we have a future… based on what we’re currently going through, we don’t see that we do have a future with the university,” said Nigel Edwards, a mosque board member.
The next rezoning discussion will happen during the next Raleigh City Council meeting on June 20.
Giving Back to Baseball
Major League Baseball announced the rosters for the inaugural HBCU Swingman Classic, taking place July 7 at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, WA. The game will feature Division 1 baseball players from 17 HBCUs.
The Swingman Classic was announced in December 2022, originally the idea of MLB Hall of Famer, Ken Griffey Jr. For him, it was all about giving back, which he learned from his father, another baseball legend, Ken Griffey.
“My dad gave back to baseball. Now it’s my turn,” Griffey said in an interview with the MLB Network. The Swingman Classic is an opportunity for student-athletes to play in front of a national audience, which some may have not had the opportunity to do before. “It gives an opportunity for these guys to be seen; plus, they want to continue their baseball career like everybody else,” Griffey said. “This is an opportunity for these guys to be out there on a big stage, to have some fun with some guys who played the game at a high level and learn some things.”
HBCU alumni will serve as the coaches for the two teams playing, including Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Ken Griffey Sr. “What better way to celebrate HBCU baseball?” said Del Matthews, MLB Vice President for Player Development.
This news roundup focuses on the trends impacting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). Each month, we highlight the policy, process and programmatic changes happening nationally and among these institutions and how the colleges and universities are responding to them.