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It's Time to Act - Or Watch Your Black Colleges Disappear (550 hits)

As Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour trumpets his plan to merge two independent black colleges into one, it's time for all of us supporters of Black Colleges to stand up, take notice and take action. Anybody out there who knows me knows my passion is black colleges. I have been doing all I can for nearly a dozen years to invest in the students attending these schools and the institutions themselves.

I can't help myself. I'm a graduate of a black college, my sons, my mom, my dad, and my grandparents. It's in my blood and quite honestly, black colleges are very much a part of this country's history. By 1890, there were 16 exclusively black institutions that received land-grant funds, and between 1861 and 1870, the America Missionary Association and the Freedman's Bureau founded seven black colleges and 13 teaching schools. Black colleges brought together the philosophies of Booker T. Washington, who advocated trade schools, and W.E.B. DuBois who wanted more liberal arts schools for black students. Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) flourished and got financial support from the government and philanthropists and began to get accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges in 1928. The United Negro College Fund, Brown Vs. Board of Education, the Higher Education Act and the Tom Joyner Foundation all have been positive for HBCUs.

What's clear to me is that times have changed, and we have to better meet the needs of this new generation or let's face it, the black colleges we know and love will all be gone. I'm calling out all those talkers, half-steppers out there. Yeah, that's you alumni of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), black college presidents, professors and federal and state legislators. Get up off your thang, and let's get busy. I don't like what I see nor hear out there.

The clock is ticking, and I'm just fed up. Just look around you to see what's happening. Gov. Barbour is not the first to suggest merging black colleges with mainstream ones. He wants to merge Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State universities, claiming the state would save the state $35 million, out of an overall $5.5 billion statewide budget. We have to remember the historical significance of Alcorn State University. It was the first to be designated as a black land-grant college. We can't let that be lost in a merger.

Remember, earlier this year, Republican Seth Harp, chairman of the Georgia legislature's Higher Education Committee recommended merging historically black Savannah State University and historically white-majority Armstrong Atlantic State University. He also has suggested merging another historically black college, Albany State, and white-majority two-year Darton College in Albany, GA. Both Barbour and Harp believe the ridiculous notion that you shouldn't invest in black colleges, but instead, consolidate the schools so you'll cut costs and duplication of programs.
Preventing these mergers has to be at the top of our minds because I know not everyone believes merging these colleges is the best solution. Even the head of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities says that Barbour's approach misses the larger issue of making sure more students get educated. What's encouraging is that students at these schools have wasted no time, and have already attracted nearly 4,000 signatures opposing the Mississippi governor.

So it's time for us - yes, us - the true believers in Black Colleges to stand up for ourselves and take control of our institutions that have produced more doctors, lawyers and scientists than most any mainstream university.

Here's what I want you to do today: Go sign the petition “Stop the Merger between Alcorn, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State (http://www.gopetition.com/online/32182.html). Contact Gov. Barbour's office by calling 1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150 or writing a letter to: P.O. Box 139, Jackson, Mississippi 39205. Send a note to Congressman Bennie Thompson, 2432 Rayburn HOB,
Washington, D.C. 20515, (202) 225-5876. Write your local state legislator who you can find at http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us/.

I'm telling you, now, take action. We have to get proactive and let these state and federal legislators know that as supporters of Black Colleges, we are going to do all we can to expand the (resources) for education not cut back.
Posted By: Neil Foote
Wednesday, December 9th 2009 at 6:19PM
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