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A crowd thick with alumni packed the City Club of Cleveland to hear from leaders at their beloved alma maters: What, exactly, will be the future of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)? Panelists Robert Michael Franklin, Jr., president emeritus of Morehouse College; Cynthia Jackson-Hammond, president of Central State University; and Claude G. Perkins, president of Virginia Union University, gave their best prognoses.

The 107 HBCUs in the United States have a storied history, small but mighty. Representing only 3 percent of U.S. colleges and universities, they educate 11 percent of all African-American students. Black colleges produce half of all black public school teachers, half of all future lawyers, and eighty percent of black judges. In an 2013 address, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised HBCUs for “almost single-handedly creating an African-American professional class in the face of decades of Jim Crow discrimination.”

Highlights from the panel discussion:

1) The value proposition of HBCUs must be more readily acknowledged

During his tenure as president of Morehouse, Franklin established the “Five Wells” of a Morehouse Man—being well-read, well-spoken, well-dressed, well-traveled, and well-balanced. HBCUs build leaders, he said, yet most guidance counselors view them as little more than “safe” schools: “Are all of our top performing students being exposed to a diverse menu of educational options?”

Predominately white institutions (PWIs) are too often touted as the best fit for all students, Perkins said, but his interactions with students at Virginia Union convince him otherwise. “I have seen students who could easily become physicians and went to some of the other schools and end up majoring in social work. Students get recruited to the larger schools and those students don’t do as well because it is not a culturally affirming environment for them. Here, you’re a person first.”

2) The wealthy (individuals and government) need to provide more financial support

Increasing alumni giving has long been a focal point: donations to HBCUs have languished under 10 percent of all graduates. Some schools, like Texas’ Prairie View A&M University, have begun campaigns for current students, to instill the “giving back” mentality before students graduate. Pressure to increase alumni giving comes as both state and federal funding decreases, leaving many HBCUs scrambling to fill the gap.

“We can’t let the African-American affluent class off the hook,” Franklin said, lamenting the $70 million gift hip-hop pioneer Dr. Dre gave the University of Southern California in 2013. Dillard University president Walter Kimbrough wrote in an Los Angeles Times op-ed: “This gift is gravy for USC; for a black college, it would transform not just individuals but whole institutions and communities.”

“Our alumni, our churches, our friends — they understand our story,” Perkins said, “but at the same time, the Obama Administration has made it very difficult for our historically black colleges and colleges that are serving moderate-to-low income students.”

“Of course if Mr. Obama had graduated from an HBCU, he would have understood that,” Jackson-Hammond added.

3) Alumni must become more vocal advocates

While the “can-do” spirit of HBCUs builds character, it ultimately diminishes the school’s capacity to undertake larger, critical projects.

“I used to work at a PWI,” Jackson-Hammond said, “and one observation is that at a PWI you usually have ten people doing one job. At an HBCU, you have one person doing ten jobs.”

The Central State president encouraged the Central State alumni in the room to do their part, to use their voice to reach potential students. “We can not wait for these students to just drop down from heaven,” Jackson-Hammond insisted. “There has to be an open dialogue about how HBCUs and K-12 institutions can work to develop a pipeline for a seamless transition. And that conversation has to start as early as preschool.”

4) Globalization and diversity must be a renewed focus

Hispanic and Latino enrollment at HBCUs has jumped 123 percent in the past 30 years, with Asian student enrollment increasing 60 percent. This has been no accident. With  PWIs like Stanford offering tuition waivers for families making under $125,000, there has been more competition for black students, with black colleges’ share getting increasing smaller.

Franklin recalled a recent trip to South Korea, where he bumped into Kevin Rome, president of Lincoln University, a small HBCU in Missouri. He was en route to a meeting with Korean education officials: “Other students outside the African-American community see value in our schools and they want to be a part of it.”

Perkins urged the audience to consider HBCUs through a mission-focused lens. “We are institutions that are willing to do the heavy lifting,” he said. “We are institutions that help our young people understand they have serious responsibilities to make this nation a better place … Any business, if they looked hard enough, would say, this is where we need to invest our money.”

by Sarah Marcus

Like many of my days spent teaching, today feels hard, but important. By 10 a.m. I’ve already had some awesome, small victories. A student ran upstairs 10 minutes before class to make sure that he understood what the word “vixen” meant and wanted to discuss if he could use it in a feminist context within his “Be A Man” poem. He told me that this felt like the biggest and most important question that he had all year. He caught the bus early so that he could be at school early to talk to me about it.

The “Be A Man/Woman” poem assignment originated from a powerful in-class discussion that we had about gender and masculinity. In my 12th Grade Creative Writing Class, largely due to the influence and materials of one of my incredible mentors, Daniel Gray Kontar, we have recently been examining Feminism and Hip-Hop. We are learning to identify poetic and literary devices through the analysis of classical poets and Hip-Hop poets. We are looking at the larger conversation that occurs in R&B music amongst emcees. We looked at ’80s and ’90s hip-hop feminists and we are now looking at and discussing the feminism and anti-feminism of Nicki Minaj. We are talking about objectification and authoring our own identities. We are talking about the double standards and negative connotations that come with women “acting like men” and vice versa. We began this unit by watching the documentary film MissRepresentation in order to provide context about how gender is portrayed in the media.

During one of our discussions about gender expectations and slut shaming, one of my senior girls says, “A master key is a key that can open any lock. That’s how we treat boys having sex. But, a lock that can be opened by any key is a bad lock. That’s how people look at girls.” Brilliant. Devastating.

We watch an interview with Nicki Minaj where she talks about how a man is a boss and a woman is a bitch when they try and get things done. We want to know what it means to be a successful businessman/woman. Some of my students have deeply held and extremely traditional beliefs about gender roles. We talk about how that is OK, if that’s what both people in a relationship want. We talk about how feminism means that you get to choose. We talk about consent.

My students, for the most part, are pretty invested. They are also super insightful. They are becoming educated consumers. I get emails and texts at all hours of the day and night with video clips or pictures that involve pop-culture that addresses feminist themes. As a teacher, this fills my heart with joy.

One day, we began a class with a short video from the #VogueEmpower Campaign to #StartWithTheBoys called “Boys Don’t Cry.”

During our follow up discussion, one of my girls says, “I would want my husband to tell my son to stop crying. I don’t want no sissy son. My daddy hit my mom because his daddy hit his mom. Not because someone told him not to cry or to stop acting like a girl.” I think being a good teacher means that everyone feels safe in your classroom, even when comments make your stomach turn. Everyone’s voice must be respected and valued. Everyone comes from different experiences. To model this care is what allows students to explore and challenge each other in a moderated space. So, I try to respond with the love and tolerance that I desperately want them to show each other. I say, “That’s a really interesting point. It makes sense to me that the act of simply telling a boy not to cry doesn’t necessarily make him into an abuser. Do you think that was the message in this video?”

We talk about life cycles. About what happens when we are not allowed to have or express emotion? What happens when we are punished for our emotions? How many people have ever bottled up their emotions and then it all came out at once in an angry explosion, raise your hand? All hands go up. I relate, too.

One student is deeply is offended by the video. “I would never do that,” he says, “That’s not fair.” I give them a brief history of #NotAllMen and then I give a race analogy. What does it mean to say, I wouldn’t say racist things, so the problem of racism doesn’t apply to me? What is our responsibility as humans? As advocates? What does it mean to say that you don’t see race, or that in your personal experience, that’s not how racism works? What is the danger in that narrow perspective? How does it perpetuate racism? Rape culture? We begin to scratch the surface of intersectionality.

We spend another class talking about whether there is such a thing as a “real” man or a “real” woman. Is “real” just our way of separating out how some people use their actions, beliefs, and attitudes to help others and some people use them to hurt others?

These themes are interwoven with videos like Buzzfeed’s #BlackLivesMatter “Things Black Men Are Tired of Hearing.”

One student responds:

Everyone wants to be black; everyone doesn’t want to be black. People want to be black when it benefits them. They try and show so much pride in them when we get a black president. They don’t want to show up for the million man march the next day. It’s not a choice to be black, it’s your life. You have to choose. To you what does that mean? Are you the thug on the street with a gun at your side dealing drugs or are you in school getting your education?

Another student responds: “Things I’m tired of hearing as a black man and from other black men: You got any felonies, you got kids, can you rap, you play basketball right, you getting them new J’s, nigga, spare change, who is you, you’re not my dad, f- the police, he talk white…”

I love these kids. I really love them. I don’t need them to think like me, but I do need them to feel challenged to think deeply. They challenge me, too. Most of my students still want to know when I’m going to stop “holding [his abusive actions] over Chris Brown’s head, because he’s apologized like a million times, Ms. Marcus!”

One of my students aptly points out that if you are conditioned to have no emotion, if you are programmed that way, it isn’t possible to believe that other people have emotions. It’s not possible in this scenario to have empathy, because you feel nothing.

I talk about the importance of empathy and being sensitive and expressing emotion… how I personally believe that expressing emotion and the ability to be sensitive and empathetic is healthy and helps us act loving and tolerant towards one another. I say that true strength comes with showing people care and forgiveness.

The boy sitting next to me says emphatically, “But, Ms. Marcus! Isn’t your boyfriend a bodybuilder!?”

And I say, “Yes, he is! This is an excellent point.” I talk about the stereotypes I had in my head about what I thought it meant to be bodybuilder before we met. I told them about the assumptions that I made about how I thought that my partner must have defined masculinity based on my assessment of his social media pages. I told them that I almost didn’t give him a chance. How I thought he was a hyper-masculine “bro.” After all, how smart could you be if you cared so much about muscles? Bodybuilders (in my mind) were self-absorbed, obsessed chauvinists with a one-track mind. Unfair? Extremely. I thought that he had a whole lot of dudes drinking out of red cups in his pictures… He had a lot of memes about #squatting and #fitgirls… oy vey, I thought. No thanks.

But, throughout our correspondences he was smart and witty and thoughtful and attentive. He read all of my online articles and was able to make intelligent comments about them. My partner, like many men I’ve met in their late 20s, didn’t identify as a feminist (despite being one) until he met me. Today, he is an incredible and visible ally and advocate. I tell my students that he is the kindest, most compassionate, sensitive, chivalrous and emotionally advanced man I have ever met, and we get to talk about how a man can be all of those things. I tell my partner about our class discussion and he writes a beautiful, thoughtful response to the kids about what masculinity means to him. This is how “Be A Man/Be A Woman” poems happened. I knew we needed to creatively process these discussions.

In regards to this morning, another one of my senior boys wrote a truly powerful poem about masculinity and orchestrated opportunities for audience participation. He even came to me after school last week to discuss my partner’s response to what it means to “be a man.” We went paragraph by paragraph. He was so interested in how someone could identify as both a very “masculine” bodybuilder and also as a feminist. This is a student who turns in no work and is constantly on the verge of being kicked out. I wrote a positive letter home, and when I went to put it in his file, I saw a long list of notes home about failing classes. This was his first positive home contact and he has been here for four years. Another one of my male (cis) seniors wrote a poem from the perspective of a young gay man. Kind of groundbreaking, right?

I was so invigorated by these wins. These dedicated and brave students. Then, I open my email from our school social worker to read that another one of my freshmen girls lost a family member to a fatal drive-by shooting. These types of emails are not uncommon. Recently, another one of my senior boys lost four family members in a brutal home murder. Sometimes it feels like you are doing so much, and then you realize that you are doing so little. These kids live in a reality riddled with violence that most of us can’t possibly begin to understand. I learn from their strength and fortitude. I try to grow from it. I am humbled and blessed to be able to do this job. So, when I feel like I’m having a tough day because my body hurts due to a slew of not fun health issues, I think about how my day isn’t actually tough at all. It’s all about my perspective and attitude. It’s never going to be as hard for me as it is for them. That’s why I teach. Because everyone deserves a chance. These kids, especially. I want them to have the tools to change the narrative. They are brave and they are empowered to author their own identities. Our actions matter. Teachers matter. Students matter. I want them to have a voice, to know their voice, and to use their voice.

Republished with permission by the author. 

Sarah Marcus is the author of BACKCOUNTRY (2013, Finishing Line Press) and Every Bird, To You (2013, Crisis Chronicles Press). Her other work has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s, Cimarron Review, CALYX Journal, Spork, Nashville Review, Slipstream, Tidal Basin Review, and Bodega, among others. She is an editor at Gazing Grain Press and a spirited Count Coordinator for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. She holds an MFA in poetry from George Mason University and currently teaches and writes in Cleveland, OH.

A bold decision to start a school in an underserved Cleveland neighborhood, made by the leaders of a 150-year-old institution, has born early fruit. Test scores are up among 112 kindergarteners and first-graders at Stepstone Academy, and the work has garnered an Anisfield-Wolf Memorial Award.

OhioGuidestone, formerly the Berea Children’s Home and Family Services, launched the new charter school in 2012, picking a building on E. 32nd St. and Carnegie Avenue in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood.

The newly enrolled youngsters, living in one of Cleveland’s poorest sections, tested that August in the bottom 10 percent of students nationally. Nine months later, 85 percent of the children had made more than a year’s worth of progress, and the student body’s average achievement score ranked near the top 25 percent nationally.

“We just adore this work and these kids we are serving,” said Richard Frank, executive director of OhioGuidestone, crediting “momentum learning” that capitalizes on both teacher-led and online instruction.

Frank accepted a plaque and a check for $20,000 from Robert E. Eckardt, executive vice president of the Cleveland Foundation, which administers Edith Anisfield Wolf’s funds. The men accepted warm applause from an audience gathered for the Center for Community Solutions’ annual breakfast. It celebrates a cadre of inspirational volunteers and the Anisfield-Wolf winner.

That annual prize goes to “a community organization that has performed outstanding service during the previous 12 months, service that goes beyond normal and expected activity,” Eckardt said.

“The success of Stepstone Academy’s first year carried over into the 2013-1014 school year, with 80 percent of students returning to the school in August 2013,” he said. “Stepstone Academy is well on its way to having a transformational impact on the lives of students, parents, and the Central neighborhood.”

This fall, Stepstone added third grade and enrollment climbed to 260 students, with an additional 50 preschoolers in Head Start, said superintendent Susan Hyland. It plans to add a grade each year.

The neighborhood has no other charter school, high illiteracy, and the majority of its residents living below the poverty line, Frank said.  To address “the poverty and homelessness,” OhioGuidestone created Stepstone 360 to surround student families. It works as “a gateway to access services and resources that help solve the tough problems blocking student achievement.”

Frank voiced OhioGuidestone’s pleasure at being selected for the Anisfield-Wolf prize, and with a dollop of emotion, declared “this school has been an act of love each and every step of the way.”

When I arrived as an undergraduate at Kent State University, I participated in Kupita, a week-long orientation for students of color in which faculty and seasoned students tried to prepare us for what lay ahead: four years as the rare black and brown faces on campus.

Those lessons stung in spots, massaged in others, and left us exhausted – rather like the new film, “Dear White People.”  Set at the fictitious Ivy League school Winchester University, the debut movie of Justin Simien follows four main characters as they figure out what blackness means to them. Not to mention managing all the expectations accompanying that identity.

Viewers meet Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell), the All-American legacy who squashes his own aspirations to please his father, the dean of students. His sometime love interest is Coco Conners (Teyonah Parris), who wonders why black people have to be so pissed off all the time. The gay black loner is Lionel Higgins (Tyler James Williams) – he wants solidarity but stumbles onto the staff of the all-white student newspaper as a token. And then there’s Sam White (Tessa Thompson), the militant Lisa Bonet lookalike who is burdened with the responsibility of being the loudest voice fighting for black students on campus.

The story begins with Troy and Sam running for “Head of House” in Armstrong-Parker, the historically black residence hall. Sam’s platform is the repeal of the recently passed Randomization of Housing Act, which threatens the safe space black students have long called their own. Troy runs on the fact that well, he’s Troy. Sam wins. The contest sets in motion a prickly battle over racial pride and identity against a backdrop of clueless white students and hyper-vigilant black students.

This tension culminates in a racist “Unleash Your Inner Negro” party thrown by white staffers at the school’s humor magazine. Blackface, crude wigs, and gaudy gold jewelry assault the senses. An older white man sitting beside me let out a low “Wow” in disbelief as the images flashed. (It’s easy to forget this isn’t purely fictional — so Simien tucks into his end credits some actual photos from “blackface parties” at colleges all over the country.)

After the flames cool from the party, the walls begin to come down for our main characters. Everyone inches a little closer to discovering who she or he truly is, even if no one is ready to make any bold declarations just yet.

Simien, 31, wrote and directed the film, which he began working on eight years ago. In 2012, he financed a concept trailer with his income tax refund, launching a crowd-funding campaign that raised more than $41,000 toward production costs. After studio executives promised distribution if “Dear White People” made it to the Sundance Film Festival, the film walked away this year with the U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent.

Some of Simien’s visual devices are unnerving — extreme close-ups and scenes shot from below make the characters appear to look down on the viewer. Add the piercing dialogue about race and I squirmed in my seat. Still, Simien deserves props for not being afraid to “go there.” In less than two hours he covers the presumed sexual prowess of black men, the cultural struggles of biracial people, homophobia within the black community and stereotypical Hollywood imagery financed by white people. There’s a lot to unload.

The actors all deliver stellar, if occasionally heavy-handed, performances. Sam, in particular, often sounds like she is reading a dissertation when she speaks. But I believe the academic posturing was intentional, a way to remind viewers that micro-aggressions like “Can I touch your hair” are indeed rooted in years of racial friction.

“Dear White People” is playing nationwide. It is not a perfect film, but well worth seeing. Do the Right Thing – and check out a rising star.

by Marilyn Williams Pringle

I never wanted my three children to be sent into in an environment where they would be exposed to racism or be treated differently because of the color of their skin.

During the 1970s, when my sister-in-law went to Valparaiso University, a predominately white school in Northwest Indiana, she endured countless racial incidents that made me fearful as my own daughters approached college age. Once, a carload of young white students chased her and her friends, shouting at them and calling them the N-word until they reached the safety of their dorm.

So while my children attended high school in Cleveland, I would tell them, repeatedly, “I don’t care what college you go to, but I’m sending my checks to an HBCU.” There, I felt they would be at least somewhat protected from the ugliness that often permeates higher education. I didn’t want them accused of being “affirmative action” admissions and I didn’t want them to be feel like they had something extra to prove. At an HBCU, they could learn in an environment where people would see their abilities first, their race second.

That was my experience at Wilberforce University in southern Ohio, studying as a first-generation college student. I can’t even remember who introduced me to Wilberforce as an option for college—a guidance counselor, perhaps? But I do know my reasons for saying yes to a historically black school.

I graduated from Shaw High School in East Cleveland and thought a predominately white university would contain too much culture shock, after growing up in a place where most people looked like me. I also knew I didn’t want to go to a mega-university, like Ohio State, and be lost in the crowd. Plus, I wanted to remain close to my mom, who was living alone as a widow two years after my dad died. I found out that I liked the Ohio cornfields and riding the bus into town.

At Wilberforce, I felt like I mattered.

If a student didn’t have their act together, the professors and staff would talk to that individual like their son or daughter. They would treat the student like family. And they would remind us, “Just because you’re at an HBCU, don’t think you’re getting an inferior education.” People had a lot of pride in Wilberforce. We didn’t have a football team, but homecoming was always a big event.

I hope Wilberforce can overcome their current enrollment challenges and remain open, because they have played an important role in educating African-Americans. As the oldest private HBCU, they teach students how to succeed, how to have the confidence and self-esteem that will help them compete with anyone. The HBCU experience is about more than academics. It’s about service. It’s about contributing. It’s about discovering who you are in an environment that truly wants you to succeed.

Two of my three children are graduates of HBCUs—Howard University in Washington, D.C., and Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla. (The third earned her bachelor and master’s degrees at a state university.) I’ve seen the difference the HBCU experience made in my daughters’ lives. When my husband and I first visited Bethune-Cookman with my youngest daughter, Olivia, I noticed the school motto etched into each doorway in the academic buildings: “Enter to learn, depart to serve.” I was sold. So was my daughter.

Marilyn Williams Pringle is a registered nurse in Cleveland. She attended Wilberforce in the early 1980s. 

When Robert Runcie became the new superintendent for Broward County schools, a populous part of metropolitan Miami, Fla., he knew the rising tide of student arrests needed reversing.

In 2010 and 2011, police made more than 1,000 arrests at his schools, and nearly 70 percent were for non-violent misdemeanors – such as truancy or smoking. These arrests disproportionately affected his African-American and Latino students. Even though students of color were 40 percent of the student body, they accounted for 71 percent of arrests.

A coalition of concerned citizens, community leaders and elected officials pushed for a new policy that would reduce the number of students with criminal records. The new initiative, started at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, redirects students to counseling and support services instead of reporting minor infractions to the police.

This initiative lines up with a policy shift advocated by the U.S. Justice Department. “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.

Both the Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education released guidelines in early January asking districts to institute fairer policies, noting that “racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.” The guidelines suggest eliminating out-of-school suspensions, providing conflict resolution training for teachers, and collecting data on infractions to monitor any potential discrimination.

The new policy is considered a correction to “zero tolerance” policies that spread in the early 1990s.  Zero tolerance forced school administrators to call the police whatever happened, stripping school staff of discretion and case-by-case judgment.  Under zero tolerance policies, students of color are three times more likely to face suspensions or expulsion than white students. Responding to this data, the ACLU and the NAACP have pressed for better, fairer approaches to school discipline.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan stressed schools can be safe and orderly and “keep students in class where they can learn.”

In at least one way, Joe Brewster sounds like most fathers.

“I want my son to have the best education possible,” he says in the opening scene of this clip from “American Promise,” a short film that he and his wife Michelle Stephenson created to detail their son’s experiences at an elite Manhattan prep school.

Idris Brewster, a 5-year-old African-American boy from Brooklyn, would be one of few minority students at the Dalton School, where 2013 tuition is more than $40,000 per year. His parents switched on the camera once he was admitted. The impulse grew into an attempt to capture his entire K-12 educational career on film.

“We were embarking on this journey and having the camera around became a tool to process our journey,” Stephenson says.

In this extended trailer, viewers see that journey through Idris’ eyes: a school suspension he experiences as unfair, the pressure his parents apply that he outperform his peers, a cab that would pick him up, but not his friends.

Both parents are accomplished—Brewster attended Harvard and trained as a psychiatrist before becoming a filmmaker; Stephenson, daughter of immigrants, graduated from Columbia Law School. They make it clear that they have high expectations for their son and want him to be able to navigate being a black man in America.

“American Promise” won the Special Jury award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival and will air on PBS in 2014. For more on “American Promise,” visit

by Chris Stevens

As a proud product of a Historically Black University (Delaware State, Class of 2007), I’ve watched with nervous eyes in recent months as 125-year-old St. Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va., prepares to close June 30 after years of struggling to stay afloat financially. Howard University, according a board of trustee member, is in danger of the same fate.

The impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is undeniable. A recent study in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported:

  • One in five African-American college graduates earned their degrees at HBCUS.
  • Black colleges graduated nearly all black students (90 percent) who earned bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields between 2006 and 2010.
  • Black colleges produce half of all black public school teachers, half of all future lawyers, and eight in 10 black judges.

HBCUs have long had a history of making do. But the politics surrounding the disparity in funding and resources between HBCUs and traditional colleges and universities must be addressed. 

Most HBCUs exist because of the Morrill Land-Grant Acts of 1862 and 1890 that pushed for colleges focused on agricultural and mechanical education, especially in Southern states. Those colleges eventually became universities with larger academic concentrations serving a predominately Black population.

Even with assistance from the federal government, most HBCUs haven’t been able sustain themselves financially or raise a national profile. (Notable notable exceptions include Howard, Spelman, Morehouse, and Florida A&M.) On the whole, many HBCUs have more in common with schools like Atlanta’s Morris Brown College, which struggled to raise $500,000 to keep from closing in 2011.

One reason HBCUs struggle is the difficulty of fundraising toward endowment and the day-to-day costs of running a university. At HBCUs, almuni giving hovers under 10 percent; the national average for all schools is 14%. Another component is the frequent failure of municipal and state governments to allocate the same funds and resources to HBCUs that are afforded to traditional schools.

During my previous job as a sports writer for the Dover Post, the government reporter got in from a budget meeting for the state of Delaware with the official numbers for the fiscal year available. I asked him how much the state was giving the University of Delaware, and he responded with $113 million. Then I asked for the Delaware State University allocation, which was a grand total of $32 million. That disparity is the norm for HBCUs, especially in Southern states like Mississippi and Georgia, where officials haves either tried to consolidate or close Black colleges in recent years.

The mission of HBCUs (educating Blacks in order to help them succeed in a world in which we are still the minority) is as relevant today as it was in the Jim Crow era. We as HBCU alumni have to do a better job of giving, which will help city, state, and federal officials see our schools are viable and deserve equal funding and resources to compete with traditional colleges. 

As Morehouse president John Silvanus Williams, Jr said in an NPR interview this year, “There is no question that we need HBCUs. We just need them to do what they do better.”

Chris Stevens is a writer, podcaster, and social media consultant based in Wilmington, Delaware. He is a 2007 graduate of Delaware State University.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager shot in the head by the Taliban last fall for being a vocal advocate for girls education, is releasing a memoir, due to hit bookshelves almost one full year after the brazen attempt on her life. The title is “I am Malala.”

“I hope the book will reach people around the world, so they realize how difficult it is for some children to get access to education,” Malala said in a prepared statement. “I want to tell my story, but it will also be the story of 61 million children who can’t get education.”

Malala was shot October 9, 2012, as she left school in northwestern Pakistan. The 15-year-old was taken to London for treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she underwent several reconstruction surgeries and countless hours of treatments. She was released from the hospital February 8, with doctors reporting she had made “excellent progress” with her recovery. Malala pledged to continue to stand up for the millions of girls who seek an opportunity to go to school.

A few weeks ago, we profiled a new film, “Girl Rising,” which explores the lives of nine young women around the world, each one fighting to be educated. (Our 2005 winner for fiction, Edwidge Danticat, wrote the story of Wadley, the young Haitian girl who would not accept “Stay home” for an answer.)

Lucky for Clevelanders, the film will be premiering at Cleveland Film Festival. If you’re planning to attend, be sure to catch one of the screenings for “Girl Rising,” on April 8 or 9. See the trailer for the film below:

Below, watch a short video of Malala from 2009 and 2011 where she talks about hiding her school attendance from Taliban leaders: