Black Education

HBCU Alumni Must Change the National Discourse

HBCU Lifestyle

(Photo Credit: HBCU Lifestyle)

Instead of allowing primarily members of the dominant culture to make the central issue surrounding historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) about whether they’re still relevant, HBCU alumni need to transition the national discourse on HBCUs to more alumni financial support to their institutions.  One of the core reasons why most predominantly white institutions (PWIs) continue to experience success and remain financially stable is they receive significant financial support from their alumni.  If alumni and supporters of HBCUs would make giving financial support to their institutions a true priority, then the relevancy questions about HBCUs will have dramatically less impact.

Many HBCUs are among the finest institutions in the nation and produce many of the best professionals in the world.  Although greater federal, state and private dollars are needed to buttress HBCUs, alums cannot sit back and wait on funding from these sources to arrive and increase. Too many graduates of HBCUs haven’t and aren’t donating to these institutions that have given so much to them.  These institutions, however, have to better engage their alumni.  HBCUs must encourage alumni to be active in important activities sponsored by their institutions.  Alumni shouldn’t just hear from institutions only when financial solicitations come in the mail. HBCU administrators must become even more ebullient in their efforts to fundraise as they are about staying in contact with their alumni and learning what concerns, suggestions, comments, and questions it has.  For alumni to begin to give more money to their HBCUs, it needs to feel truly important to these institutions.  Better engagement with alumni does not mean more financial solicitations.

HBCU graduates have to understand how vital the conversations they have about the institutions that produced them are to the continued success of these institutions.  HBCU alums cannot expect their institutions to prosper when they’re constantly having negative discourses about them.  What you say about HBCUs, even via social media, can have an immense impact on them.  You should really think about the harm you can cause to HBCUs when you express your complaints about them via social media.  Make great efforts to resolve your issues with leaders at these institutions before you do an unproductive thing like airing your anger about them on Facebook and/or Twitter.  While you may feel you’re just venting or attempting to get your point across, many people are out there who desire to dismantle HBCUs and they will use your comments as fuel and evidence for their nefarious efforts.

The complaints of alums, however, shouldn’t go unanswered.  If HBCU administrators want to see more financial giving to their institutions, then they must employ better ways to hear and address complaints of alums, especially when those complaints are credible.  Even when complaints aren’t legitimate, it matters to alums that their voices are perceived as being heard.  These institutions can do a better job of resolving tensions that exist within by establishing a meaningful relationship with their alumni.  A meaningful relationship cannot simply be developed by interacting with alums around the time Homecoming is approaching and during the week of Homecoming.

Establishing meaningful relationships with alums, engaging them in essential institutional activities, and empowering them with a voice that matters will yield greater financial support for HBCUs from alumni.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men: A Review

The Black Man Can Journal

Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men (2012), penned by Brandon Frame of The Black Man Can, is a powerful journal specifically designed for Black boys and men to engage in critical thought and reflection.  In the 284 pages of the journal, Black boys and men have an opportunity to create a vision and plan for ameliorating their own lives in their own language.  Never has there been a personal journal produced solely for Black boys and men.  Through this journal, they are provided with space to express their thoughts on a range of issues and respond to essential questions.  Powerful quotations from accomplished Black men have been carefully selected and masterfully deployed by Brandon Frame to inspire critical thought.

An extensive body of empirical research has evinced that Black male students throughout the educational pipeline academically underperform all students.  In the face of this reality, tools must be available to militate against the factors that contribute to Black male academic underachievement.  Define Yourself, Redefine the World: A Guided Journal for Black Boys and Men is one of those innovative and valuable resources we need to help Black boys and men to progress academically, professionally, socially and personally.  The issues and questions they will confront in the journal offer them opportunities to face what they must do to make a significant change in their lives.

Too many Black boys and men are allowed to read and internalize negative narratives about themselves—primarily verbal and written narratives from Whites who do not wish them well.  Harper (2009) contends that Black males must have the opportunity to tell their own narratives in their own voices to offer meaningful and necessary counternarratives to the dominant extant narratives about them—the dominant narratives about them are mostly untrue, demeaning, and racist.  Through this journal, Frame empowers Black males with opportunities to write their counternarratives.

A growing body of professional literature demonstrates that mentoring Black male students leads to higher academic achievement and motivation.  Frame’s journal equips those who mentor with a resource that can be used to aid them in the process of transforming the lives of Black male students.  For those who mentor Black men, it gives them a tool to facilitate proper guidance and support.

Black fathers and sons now have a serious means through which to share and learn from one another.  I envision this journal helping to form Black male virtual and non-virtual communities and spaces where important ideas, challenges, problems, and solutions are discussed, shared, envisaged and implemented.  Additionally, I can see multifarious conferences and think tanks developing from those who read and use this journal.

I highly recommend this journal.  It can be purchased here: Purchase the Journal Here.  For only $15.00, you could save your own life and/or the life of a Black boy or man by buying this journal.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Revolutionary Paideia January 2011 Person of the Month: Kelley Williams-Bolar

Each month, Revolutionary Paideia selects a person who “unsettles, unnerves, and unhouses” us in meaningful and positive ways. Kelley Williams-Bolar has been selected as The Revolutionary Paideia January 2011 Person of the Month. She is a Black mother who was sentenced to 10 days in jail and two years of probation in Ohio for sending her children to a school district that they supposedly did not live in. This woman is a heroine! She refused to allow her children to stay trapped in a failing school district. She was not willing to allow her children to continue to be victimized by egregiously underfunded schools and by serious educational inequities. Kelley Williams-Bolar was not simply willing to sit back and complain like many other people about social and educational inequities—she went out and attempted to create the change that she wanted to see. Many timorous and comfortable Americans can learn from the great example of Williams-Bolar. This woman is not a criminal—she’s a heroine.

One of the great promises of Brown v. Board of Education (1954) was to provide all students with educational equity. Unfortunately, many Black students are still in schools that are really not any better than those Black students were situated in during Jim Crow. Conservatives, liberals, and moderates should all be in the business of championing true educational equity for all students. One of the best ways to continue to progress America towards its optimal greatness is to ensure that all students have access to a truly quality education. Kelley Williams-Bolar saw that there was a school district available that could offer her children a quality education, and she resolved that she was going to give her children access to schools that can truly educate them. If this means that this woman should be considered a “criminal,” then we need more “criminals.”

I want to applaud Williams-Bolar for having the courage to do what it took to give her children the best education possible.

Governor John Kasich, I like you very much but I want you to pardon this woman.

It is my pleasure to name Kelley Williams-Bolar as The Revolutionary Paideia January 2011 Person of the Month.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Form A Black Parents Association

Increased and improved parental involvement is unquestionably a crucial dimension of true education reform. As I continue to think about solutions to remedying the significant academic underachievement of Black males throughout the educational pipeline, I cannot help but think about how vital their parents are to improving their academic achievement. In every county in America, there needs to be the creation of a Black Parents Association. What do I mean by Black Parents Association? I’m referring to Black parents federate in every county to meet often about local and national issues pertaining to education, to discuss strategies for improving the academic achievement of their children, to work together to help their children with homework problems, to share resources with one another, to organize with one another to protest injustices in their local schools, and etc.

Now, there is certainly not anything wrong with this newly formed organization of Black parents joining and working with non-Black parents. Since Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline, Black parents are going to have to unite first to tackle this problem. After all, it’s their children who are experiencing this academic achievement problem. I think that the formation of a group like this in every county in the nation has great potential to energize Black parents and result in dramatic improvements in the academic achievement of Black students. When educators, school board members, administrators, and legislators begin to see Black parents more organized, more involved, and more committed to ameliorating the academic achievement of their children, schools will have to become more responsive to the needs of Black students.

Just like many Blacks organized to protest the Jena 6 injustice because many Blacks saw this situation as a crisis, we also have to see Black education as in crisis. Whenever you have Black male students throughout every level of the educational pipeline, including higher education, academically underperforming all students this is a real crisis. By creating a Black Parents Association, Black parents begin to become change agents and facilitators in the change we want to see in our children’s academic achievement. Our people have had a history of organizing to engender change to respond to crises. We have a crisis in Black education today and we need to respond to it.

Social media, newspapers, local publications, television, radio, word of mouth, churches, schools, local stores, and etc. can be used as vehicles for promulgating interest meetings about the construction of a local Black Parents Association. I would recommend that this new organization be guided and governed by democratic principles. Make the organization a formal organization.

Black parents, you have the power to increase wealth in the Black community by making stronger investments in your children’s education. We have to tackle the problems our children are having with their studies to bring in greater wealth into our community. We have to face it—improved academic achievement is central to ushering in more wealth into our community. Our economic and social conditions will not be meaningfully improved until we do a better job of buttressing our children’s education.

Black parents unite!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

The Postmodern Plantation System: The NCAA and Black Male Student-Athletes

Slavery is not over. Colleges and universities collectively make billions of dollars off of the athletic prowess of Black male student-athletes, but these institutions will not even give them adequate academic support in return. Many people will say that they receive free tuition and room and board and will think that they should be happy with this, considering most undergraduates don’t have this advantage. I would just like to inform people who think like this that most student-athletes don’t receive scholarships, free tuition, and room and board—only a select few receive free tuition and room and board. Even if all student-athletes were to magically be given free tuition and room and board, this would still represent a classic Marxian uneven exchange. Think about it—they provide these institutions with billions of dollars and these institutions give them free tuition and room and board in return—simply inequitable. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), the governing body that oversees intercollegiate athletics, contends that paying student-athletes would be a horrible thing to do. However, the NCAA and higher education institutions do not think that it’s horrible to pay Teaching Assistants. Why not simply make graduate students teach for free as a part of their degree requirements? Exactly! They know that graduate students are too sophisticated and too politically organized to allow themselves to be exploited in such a way.

Just as those Teaching Assistants receive free tuition and a monthly stipend in return for their service, institutions should give all student-athletes monthly stipends in return for their service. Many athletic departments require student-athletes to do community service projects, visit sick children in hospitals, and other charitable things, but they are not paid a dime for this service—the athletic departments simply get to benefit from the charity of these student-athletes.

Billy Hawkins, Kinesiology professor at the University of Georgia, has written a book, The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly NCAA Institutions (2010), that posits that predominantly White colleges and universities are functioning very much like the colonial plantations did during slavery. For Hawkins, Black male student-athletes are slaves at these predominantly White institutions. He does an excellent job of evincing how these institutions exploit Black male student-athletes academically and physically.

I do, however, disagree with Hawkins that these institutions are functioning very much like colonial plantations during slavery. In Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991), Fredric Jameson asserts that we are currently residing in late capitalism, a stage of capitalism that makes it much more the global dominant and much more of a deceptively attractive economic system than it was during slavery in America. Therefore, the attempt Hawkins makes to evince how Black male student-athletes are similar to slaves during slavery in America ultimately fails because his central thesis needs to be informed by a serious understanding of late capitalism (postmodernism).

My notion of colleges and universities being postmodern plantations for Black male student-athletes is informed carefully by Fredric Jameson’s characterization of postmodernism (late capitalism). During slavery in America, Black people knew without a doubt that they were slaves. Black male student-athletes do not know that they are slaves today. Many are given scholarships that pay their tuition and room and board, but this uneven exchange exploits them in academic, economic, and physical ways that are much more dishonest than during the colonial plantation system. The focus that Hawkins devotes to making connections between the treatment of slaves during slavery to the treatment of Black male student-athletes in our postmodern period are important, but he misses how much more sophisticated colleges and universities have developed the postmodern plantation.

Predominantly White colleges and universities have made most Black student-athletes think that they are happy because they get to play the sports they enjoy, get free tuition and housing, and have a chance to compete professionally. During slavery, most slaves were not happy just receiving the bare minimums. Free tuition and room and board are the bare minimums today.

The NCAA is a cartel. This despicable governing body is only interested in helping colleges and universities to keep getting richer so that the executive leadership of the NCAA can keep getting richer. The NCAA is the force that allows this postmodern plantation system to persist and that makes the postmodern plantation system increasingly more dominant. The refusal of the NCAA to allow student-athletes to be given stipends in exchange for participating in intercollegiate athletic sports is a deliberate attempt to exploit not only Black male student-athletes but all student-athletes.

The least that these predominantly White colleges and universities can do is give student-athletes enough money in the form of stipends to pay for their own private tutors, tutors outside of the athletic department.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison