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A Shared Vision of Access to Education and Racial Equity – HBCUs and Everyday Democracy

Author: 
Endia DeCordova
February 19, 2018

February is Black History Month, a time to reflect and celebrate the many achievements of African Americans and a time for recognizing their critical role in U.S. history. For over 150 years, historically black colleges and universities — more commonly called HBCUs -- have undeniably affected how African Americans gain access to education and new levels of social and economic structures. HBCUs created what we know as the black middle class and culture of activism, civic participation and democratic discourse.

 

Comparable to Everyday Democracy, HBCUs create an environment where battling racial equity and injustice are part of the institution’s fabric. Serving as pillars for civic discourse and community engagement, these institutions support the growing need for activism and advocacy, mobilizing generations to be at the center of the fight for equality and justice.

 

For thousands of African Americans, HBCUs represent the initial entry point to access higher education, especially first-generation college students. When colleges and universities across the country said “no,” these institutions said “yes,” and played a critical role in educating black Americans; training, preparing and galvanizing generations that will lead and change democratic policy and social movements. Leaders like Thurgood Marshall, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , Sen. Kamala Harris and White House correspondent April Ryan have been central to the social movements that have reshaped American society.

When colleges and universities across the country said “no,” these institutions said “yes,” and played a critical role in educating black Americans; training, preparing and galvanizing generations that will lead and change democratic policy and social movements.

“For hundreds of thousands of African-American families, HBCUs were the only option in higher education for generations,” said Stanley Nelson in the New York Times.

 “They are the engine that has powered black progress, from centuries of enslavement to the highest positions in business, government, education, science, technology and entertainment.

“These schools were places where students could speak freely about issues affecting the African-American community, debate approaches, and develop the tactics, arguments and political strategies for addressing them,” he added.

There is no coincidence the role HBCUs play in shaping the social justice movements across the country. Like Everyday Democracy, whose process and resources helps create a democracy where all voices are valued, and where participation and racial equity becomes a permanent part of the way we work as a country, this concept is even more crucial in today’s polarizing political climate.

The impact of HBCUs and Everyday Democracy is undeniable in empowering communities to sustain our civil rights legacy and cultivate a cultural climate that prioritizes educational opportunities and social justice.  This work is as important today as it was a century ago. As we celebrate Black History Month, we must not forget to honor and support the powerful traditions and contributions these institutions have made in moving our society forward.

For more information on how historically black colleges transformed America, tune in to the new PBS documentary “Tell Them We Are Rising,” on Monday, February 19.  Visit here for more information about where to watch near you or on demand.

 

Endia M. DeCordova is a first-generation college student and HBCU graduate earning a Bachelor of Science degree in communications from Morgan State University, Baltimore, Maryland. Ms. DeCordova also holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Hartford, Barney School of Business, West Hartford, Connecticut.  Ms. DeCordova counsels nonprofits in developing effective fundraising, event management, and marketing communication strategies. Widely recognized for her innovative community engagement and outreach initiatives, she has designed and executed a wide array of successful fundraising, public relations and marketing-communications programs in the higher education and non-profit arenas.

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