Letter to Dr. Boyce: Why Don’t You Work for an HBCU and How Can They Stay Alive?

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Someone sent me this note, I thought it was interesting.  So, rather than simply responding on my Facebook wall, I thought that it would be helpful to respond in a blog post.  The HBCU issue was also interesting to me, since Steve Perry and I tried desperately to hold our Washington DC event at Howard University.  Let’s just say that things didn’t work out.

Here’s the message the woman sent to me: 

I have been following you and your work and thank you for taking a stand even when your views were unpopular- you have enlightened too many and have been doing the ground work!

I was wondering if you could make a status update on how you feel about HBCUs. I don’t know if you ever spoke about this, about why you would choose, or not choose, to work in one. How do you feel about the future of the HBCU and what they must do to stay alive and actually thrive?
Here is my answer:

a) HBCUs are better than other universities, at least when it comes to giving students a kind of love and comfort that I never felt at any of the Predominantly White Institutions PWIs I attended (I couldn’t afford to attend an HBCU, since my grades were horrible in high school).

2) Spelman is the best college in America for black women, I truly believe that.  I believe that love and confidence are two of the greatest gifts we can give to our children, which open their minds to the value of education.

3) I’ve tried to work at two HBCUs. The problem is that these schools are conservative and many HBCU business schools are controlled by Asians and Indians, so the last thing they would want is to hire a radical negro like me. Cornel West told me that he had the same problem when he was closer to my age. But if I had my choice, I would have chosen to teach at Howard over Syracuse, even for a pay cut.

4) I think HBCUs can survive if we stand up and support them. I met this week with a relatively prominent person who has an equally strong interest in saving HBCUs. She and I are going to try to work with like-minded citizens to see if we can convince the black American public of the importance of giving back to these institutions. If we don’t support our institutions, then who will?

So, that’s my take on HBCUs, may they be blessed and prosper.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and author of the book, “Black American Money”. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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