Sunday, May 24, 2009
Moving Historically Black Colleges and Universities Into The Silver Rights Era by Akindele Akinyemi
I was talking to some adults yesterday on the need for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Some feel that they have passed their time. If we look at history around the 19th and early to mid 20th century, there was no question about it. At the peek of segregation and discrimination in the United States this form of hate was the order of the day and it stood in the way of progress. Is that still the case today? If so, do we even care? Everytime you turn around, we are always being solicited for money by HBCUs because they are in economic distress. Where does the free market come into play?
There is STILL a need for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. However, the way we run and support these institutions need to change for the better.
If you take a look at the Catholics they support Georgetown and Notre Dame. The Mormons support BYU. The Seventh Day Adventists support Andrews University in Berrien Springs, MI. The Lutherans-Missouri Synod support Concordia University. Most White Americans support and give back to the public institution they graduated from. However, when it comes to Blacks in this country we do not support our own institutions. After all, here in Detroit, most of the businesses are owned and operated by Arabs and Chaldeans even thought Blacks make up 90% of the total population in our city.
However, HBCUs can serve as an incubator to develop 21st century leadership through a silver rights perspective. The main problem is that we still have HBCU presidents that operate on a 20th century civil rights perspective. For example, why do we continue to beg the federal government for money to run OUR institutions? This is OUR responsibility to fund and manage first. Our ways of innovation must be creative.
An example of innovation for these HBCUs is creating a social business incubator that will help divert funding to the HBCU of our choice. A social business is one which aims to be financially self-sufficient, if not profitable, in its pursuit of a social, ethical or environmental goal. Speaking of social business HBCUs do not offer social entrepreneurship programs to help eradicate poverty in our community. Our way of thinking must change and our way of doing business must be global.
For private HBCUs like Howard and Morehouse we have not done a good job in holding our faith based and non-profit communities accountable for not supporting quality education in these HBCUs. The major fund we have for the HBCUs is the United Negro College Fund. I dislike the term "negro" because it is outdated. Again, this is the Silver Rights Movement not the Civil Rights Movement. Our way of thinking must change and our way of doing business must be global. We need more than just the UNCF and Coca-Cola giving out scholarships to poor Blacks going to a HBCU. We need public-private partnerships working on improving the financial status of these HBCUs, creating a financial mechanism that will bring in billions to these universities by developing new global initiatives that will place these HBCUs in direct competition with other traditional colleges and universities.
The K-12 educational program at the HBCUs must be different also. They should offer teacher certifications in areas such as African-American History (which should not be looked upon as an elective), financial literacy and physiology to go into the most distressed urban areas to prepare our children for the 21st century.
In a silver rights perspective we are in the business of generating wealth on these HBCUs by developing challenging programs, curriculums, and research facilities that will prepare our students in the 21st century. Some HBCUs are already doing this such as Tenneessee State University.
HBCUs serve as the custodians of the record of the struggle of Black people in this country to achieve the very highest levels of contribution to our society. There are many ways to ensure these institutions are preserved.
However, American society has written off HBCUs as irrelevant. More importantly, Black people has written off HBCUs off their list as well. This is why it is important to know your history before you write anything off. These HBCUs can very well be the change agent in urban communities across America.
HBCUs must be brought up to date. Central Michigan University and University of Michigan have satellite across the State of Michigan. They have numerous campuses where working people with families can go and take night classes. HBCUs need to do the same. I do not understand why our Black colleges do not set up satellite schools in urban areas across Michigan where it is affordable and students can receive one-one attention?
Flint, Michigan is a prime example of a community that needs to be turned around. We have people here in Detroit applauding Detroit Public School Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb for trying to steer the district in the right direction. However, there is a Robert Bobb in every urban school district in Michigan. Flint has one too. The problem is he/she has not shown up yet in that community but they exist. What that urban area needs is innovation.
For decades, Flint has been dependent on the automotive industry (General Motors). Since that ship has passed the city needs a new and diverse economy to move it forward again. Part of the transformation process is to revamp its educational core. If the educational system does not work then the community dies. How do Flint restore itself to glory?
You have to look at new ways of becoming creative with the educational system there. Establishing a counterculture to combat the negative, prison culture that exists in the most depressed communities in Flint is a start. We have a film industry that is taking off in Michigan. We have green initiatives that are taking off. All of this cannot be done if we are not teaching our children in Flint financial literacy skills that will help shape them to become entrepreneurs. We have to create an educational system in Flint that will allow students to have a sense of ownership to their destiny.
Where do Historically Black Colleges and Universities come into play in the City of Flint? They come into play by setting up satellite campuses in Flint that stresses cultural arts, green initiatives, health care, and entrepreneurship that will create more silver rights movers and shakers to restore balance in their community.
The other thing with HBCUs is the fact that they should partner with both traditional and charter schools. How come a charter school cannot partner with Hampton University, Alabama State University or Morehouse/Spelman? This would be a great exchange. Students who are interested in attending these public/private HBCUs would have the first chance of doing so if they complete their four years in high school. At the same time, those who are preparing to graduate from a HBCU in education can do their student teaching and then get hired at the school where they partnered. Again, Flint and other urban areas in Michigan can lead the nation in this type of partnership.
Urban conservatives should support this idea of HBCUs moving into the next step of education from a global initiative. As we know, education is global. Our HBCUs must be global, must be in the business of actively recruiting internationally from across the Diaspora and must be willing and able to provide a sense of high level of education for those who are coming from places such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Jamaica and other parts of the globe. HBCUs recruit and receive students from all over the planet BUT what I am sharing with you is preparing our students in silver rights to become change agents internationally. To produce wealth and rebuild families that has been decimated by the present day culture that promotes individualism.
These students, for example, must be ready to tackle the global economic crisis. The United States is experiencing the highest U.S. unemployment rate in 25 years (8.9 percent), a record low housing construction rate, down 12.8 percent, and a loss of consumer and market confidence due to deteriorating personal finances. One revolutionary way of making HBCUs competitive is to institute a financial engineering program at the undergraduate and graduate level.
Financial Engineering is a multidisciplinary field involving financial theory, the methods of engineering, the tools of mathematics and the practice of programming. Developing such a program at our HBCUs could provide a one-year full-time training in the application of engineering methodologies and quantitative methods to finance. This would be designed for students who wish to obtain positions in the securities, banking, and financial management and consulting industries, or as quantitative analysts in corporate treasury and finance departments of general manufacturing and service firms.
These HBCUs are essential to the future of urban America. We cannot give up on them. They are core mechanisms waiting to move urban communities into the 21st century. Our outlook must be different on how these HBCUs can serve urban areas in Michigan and beyond. If we are talking about developing trade missions, imports and exports in and out of Africa and beyond then our HBCUs must be in the forefront of the discussion, development and execution of building wealth in both our rich and traditional educational history and future.