This week (Sept. 16-22) has been named HBCU Week to bring awareness to Historically Black Colleges and Universities. A national conference was scheduled to convene at the White House and feature HBCU students, administrators and alumni. And the first Black greek-lettered sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc., kicked off the week with HBCU Impact Day, where the sorority’s International President Glenda Glover, who is also president of HBCU Tennessee State University, led a 24-hour charge asking sorority members along with HBCU stakeholders to make contributions. The goal was to raise $1 million for HBCUs on Sept. 17.
“HBCUs are deeply woven into the fabric of our country and they need our help,” said Dr. Glenda Glover. “On September 17, our commitment to service focused entirely on historically Black colleges and universities by raising funds to provide the financial support these institutions need to ensure their sustainability.”
The many pros of attending an HBCU have been espoused. From personal accounts to those documented in the PBS documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising” (see hbcurising.com) that aired earlier this year, HBCUs have a long history of educating African Americans and others. The schools originated back when Black people had limited options for higher education, but in today’s society where all universities are opened to aspiring students, HBCUs still have a prominent place in contemporary Black society.
Many famous and successful African Americans are proud graduates of these institutions, where they were often taught by Black Ph.D.s, a source of pride and walking history in and of itself. Oprah Winfrey is a graduate of Tennessee State, Jesse Jackson earned his undergraduate degree from North Caroline AT&T, Director Spike Lee and Actor Samuel L. Jackson are proud graduates of Morehouse University, Actress Taraji P. Henson and Sean Puffy Combs attended Howard University, and the Fly Jock Tom Joyner graduated from Tuskegee University, to name a few. And often times famous alumni send their children to HBCUs (Anthony Anderson’s son is at Howard; Denzel Washington’s son graduated from Morehouse.)
With the draw of award-winning sports teams, the absolute best marching bands and nationally recognized programs in a variety of areas, many students flock to these meccas of Black culture where they can be free from systemic racism for a period of time as they matriculate through college. While some may have at one time thought the education to be subpar, statistics have proven this concept false. Just look at the number of doctors who have attended Xavier University of Louisiana for their undergraduate studies in (the college leading the pack in medical school placement for African Americans from any university). And the social scene on these campuses leave nothing to be desired.
But as wonderful as “our” schools may be, there are still some realistic cons associated with HBCUS. One of them is funding. Lacking huge endowments like some of their Predominately White Institutions (PWIs), funding can be challenging at our HBCUS and this impacts of course operating budgets as well as the amount of scholarship awards for the best and brightest to attend.
Funding issues can also cause a lack of administrative organization. This fall, a terrible string of stories and comments circulated on social media about the lack of housing at Clark Atlanta University. Some students didn’t have housing or did not know their status days before leaving to attend, which made many parents very uncomfortable.
Thankfully, HBCU Week and fundraisers like the one started by Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. can help raise more money for our institutions, and the more alumni are tuned into the needs of their HBCU, they too will hopefully join the band wagon and give back to the places that nurtured and inspired them.
Another way funding and awareness is generated for HBCUs is through sports games, such as the Chicago Football Classic (CFC), which is celebrating its 21st anniversary in Chicago this weekend. This year, the game includes Morehouse University vs. Miles College, the only HBCU in Birmingham, Ala. However, the focus of the weekend is always on all HBCUs. Bringing the games to cities like Chicago where there are no HBCUs can raise awareness—reminding parents and aspiring students that Black universities are a viable college choice.
This week, the Big Game starts at 3:30 p.m., but there’s something to do all day (and weekend) long.
Many celebrated HBCU day at the Cubs game this past Sunday, where alumni and supporters gathered on the North side sporting HBCU wear.
A pep rally at Daley Plaza will be held on Thursday Sept. 20 at noon will feature the drumlines from Miles College and Morehouse.
The annual golf outing and coaches luncheon happens on Friday, Sept. 21 at Harborside International Golf Center. Participants can network with coaches, sponsors, attendees, HBCU alumni, and CFC founders and supporters.
The College Fair is from 9 a.m.-noon. All high school students and parents are invited to Soldier Field, 1410 Museum Campus Drive, for the fair. It’s a great place to find out about all of the HBCUs (and local colleges) out there. Be prepared to ask all of your questions and bring your transcripts—it’s not unheard of for some students to receive on-the-spot acceptance. To preregister or for more information, visit: chicagofootballclassic.org/hbcu-college-fair.
The vendor marketplace, a beautiful and creative assortment of products, many of which are from Black vendors, will open at 1:30 p.m. at Soldier Field. It stays open throughout the game.
Of course, the day also includes plenty of tail-gating, the much-anticipated Battle of the Bands, and a car raffle (this year a Jeep Wrangler).
CFC is a not-for-profit organization founded by businessmen Everett Rand, Tim Rand and Larry Huggins to encourage Black youth to achieve their personal best in school and beyond. The annual CFC is a great way to cap off HBCU week.