Submitted to the AFRO by Dr. Ken Morgan
For 12 long years, the four HBCU students and alumni represented by the Maryland Coalition for Excellence in Higher Education and their lawyers have continued to fight for the life of the four Maryland HBCUs in the federal court. The defendant or combatant or oppressor – you choose – is the state of Maryland. Federal court judge Catherine Blake initially ruled for the HBCU plaintiffs.
I was one of 40-50 HBCU supporters, mostly alumni, and students from the four Maryland HBCUs to travel to Richmond to jam-pack the courtroom.
The State chose to appeal the remedy decision underway to the Richmond, Va. United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Dec. 11. The defendant’s lawyer said the best way to address inequality ills that make HBCUs on par with TWIs’-traditionally white institutions in higher education is through marketing and recruitment.
The courts say 1938 marks the time when the State became culpable. I prefer Malcolm X’s observation. “We were kidnapped and brought here against our will from Africa. We didn’t land on Plymouth Rock – that rock landed on us.”
The plaintiffs say inequitable academic funding continues between TWIs -traditionally white institutions –and HBCUs. An unequal balance worsened via TWIs’ duplicating programs. One Appellate Court justice wondered why the case was not already settled. Judge, how long have we waited for our forty acres and a mule?
Another judge queried whether traceable evidence of HBCU harm now existed. Translated he said in my head, “How much more do you niggers want?” “Be satisfied.” No harm intended judge.
One judge pointed out that society thought HBCUs stigmatized with the inferior label because of inequity. Technically Brown v. Kansas Board of Education shot down separate but equal. Reality says otherwise. Underline public education. My trip to Richmond says the struggle continues. Do I get an amen?
How can we win the epic battle? Take a hint from Marylanders both dead and alive that fought for Black human rights. Frederick Douglass observed, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Possess Harriet Tubman’s passion. She said, “I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.” We all need to heed her words.
Arm ourselves with Gloria Richardson’s strength said a former SNCC member and “Eyes on the Prize” producer of the documentary. She said, “Gloria was a different type of strength. Nobody was going to stop her or her community from getting her basic human rights.”
Dr. Morgan is a former Asst. Professor and coordinator of the Coppin State University Urban Studies Program and Morgan State University alumnus. Reach him at [email protected]
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