Beyonce’ and HBCUs

On April 14, 2018, Beyonce’ performed at Coachella to honor the Homecoming Weekend Experience at HBCUs. From the band, dancers, and Greek inspired fashion, she illuminated the rich culture of HBCUs.

But why Coachella? Some refer to Coachella as the modern day “Woodstock” where the audience is predominantly White and ticket prices start at $429 per person. Beyonce’ is the first Black female to headline the festival.

However, Beyoncé’s mother, Ms. Tina Lawson, shared her hesitation regarding the HBCU inspired performance. She felt the audience would be confused but, Beyoncé had a larger vision in mind. Beyonce’ hoped to teach and inspire people of all colors about the RICH culture and history at HBCUs. And she did!

Beyoncé’s father Matthew Knowles is an alum of Fisk University, where I would assume the Queen B had her first interaction with an HBCU. Whether her father shared stories of his Fisk days or attended a homecoming with his daughter, the HBCU blood runs through Beyoncé and is why she’s given back to our institutions.

Since this epic performance, Beyonce’ announced her Homecoming Scholars Award Program ( which awards four $25,000 scholarships to a student at Xavier University, Wilberforce University, Tuskegee University and Bethune-Cookman University. Additionally, in 2017 Beyonce’ created the Formation Scholars ( which awards four scholarships to female students pursuing studies in creative arts, music, literature or African-American studies at participating schools including Howard University and Spelman College.

After this historical moment we want to know what you think about Beyoncé’s influence on HBCUs. Please click the link below and complete the survey. It will only take 2-3 minutes to complete.

Survey Beyoncé and HBCU

Thank you for your responses and following us at State of HBCUs.

Of Ida B. Wells, Respectability Politics and the Journey Ahead


Years ago, the courageous journalist, suffragist, and anti-lynching activist Ida B. Wells was born on this day. Educated at Fisk, Wells served as co-owner and editor of the Black newspaper, The Free Speech and Headlight. She used her platform to condemn state sanctioned violence, disfranchisement, educational inequality and challenged assumptions and definitions of manhood.

Although the outspoken activists died in 1931, her work and words continue to have value in today’s social and political context. Whether in St. Louis, Baltimore, South Carolina or Texas, African Americans continue to face extra judicial killings while those charged with maintaining peace and order face little to no recourse for their [illegal] actions.

As Wells began her anti-lynching movement, her newspaper office was destroyed by a white mob and threatened to kill her if she returned. So she did what many African Americans would eventually do after her – she packed up and went North. In Chicago she began writing for a Black run newspaper called the New York Age and continued to be a strong voice for equality, suffrage and the franchise.

I have always maintained that Wells’ critique of Black male leaders, particularly of Booker T. Washington deserved closer analysis. In her critique of certain race leaders’ approach to race relations rests a very sophisticated condemnation of structural and institutionalized racism.

In an essay entitled, “Booker T. Washington and his Critics” Wells argued against the notion of respectability politics. Her words should serve as a reminder of the long road ahead.

“Does someone ask a solution of the lynching evil? Mr. Washington says in substance: Give me money to educate the Negro and when he is taught how to work, he will not commit the crime for which lynching is done. Mr. Washington knows when he says this that lynching is not invoked to punish crime but color, and not even industrial education will change that.”

“Again he sets up the dogma that when the race becomes taxpayers, producers of something the white man wants, land-owners, business, etc., the Anglo-Saxon will forget all about color and respect that race’s manhood… It was not the servant or working class of Negroes, who know their places, with whom the white people objected to riding, but the educated, property-owning Negro who thought himself the white man’s equal.”

So regardless if you are a 17 year-old Black male armed with skittles and iced-tea or a 28-year old member of a prominent Sorority headed to a dream job at your alma mater, respectability politics will not save you.

Interning with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities

This summer I was afforded the opportunity to in06092014 - HBCU Staff Photostern with the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (WHI-HBCU). The WHI-HBCU was established in 1980 under Executive Order 12232 signed by U.S. President Jimmy Carter “…to overcome the effects of discriminatory treatment and to strengthen and expand the capacity of historically black colleges and universities to provide quality education.” Each U.S. President following Carter renewed and strengthened the Executive Order on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) by establishing the President’s Board of Advisors and increasing private sector involvement among this group of institutions. In 2010 President Obama signed Executive Order 13532 to highlight Excellence Innovation and Sustainability of HBCUs, using partnerships with federal agencies and departments. It also emphasized the importance of public and private sector partnerships to sustain the important work of HBCUs. Additionally the Executive Order requires submission of annual reports with the purpose of informing the President and Secretary of the WHI-HBCU participation in appropriate federal programs and initiatives. Today the WHI-HBCU is housed within the Department of Education in the Office of the Under Secretary and continues to serve as a liaison between HBCUs, federal agencies, and the private sector.

Primary Responsibilities

This summer my primary responsibility entailed completing the WHI-HBCU 2013 Fiscal Report. In order to complete the report, I compiled each federal agency’s fiscal contributions into a master spreadsheet. Each agency’s contribution was organized by HBCU in the following categories: research and development, training, direct institutional subsidies, facilities and equipment, student financial assistance, fellowships, third-party awards, administrative infrastructure, program evaluation, economic development, and other. After organizing this information by agency I thought it beneficial to create a PivotTable for further analyses and graphs by agency, category, and institution.


Throughout my internship there were various federal agency stakeholders who provided insight to complete the WHI-HBCU 2013 fiscal report. It required meeting with senior officials within WHI-HBCU office because they communicate with each federal agency’s representative. Throughout the year each senior official and agency representative discuss contributions (monetary and non-monetary) to HBCUs and its purpose. The primary mechanism for engagement and funding to HBCUs include competitive grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts. The report also provides acknowledgement of indirect support that may come from paid internships for HBCU students or provide training for faculty. I communicated with the HBCU senior staff of any problems and they followed-up with the corresponding federal agency representative.


While completing the 2013 Annual Report I overcame unexpected barriers. At the end of my internship only 20 of the 34 federal agencies submitted their fiscal reports. Therefore the final contributions in the 2013 report are inconsistent with the final totals from previous annual reports.

Additional Projects

Additionally I worked with the Executive and Associate Director, other staff, and interns on various projects like the WHI-HBCU annual conference. The WHI-HBCU 2014 Conference planning was an ongoing project where input was requested for conference speakers and topics. To assist I researched scholars in the field of higher education with interests on college retention, student financial aid, LGBTQ, and the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Then at our weekly team meetings we discussed the proposed speakers and topics. This experience allowed me the opportunity to use my knowledge of scholars in the field of higher education, federal agency staff and other stakeholders and place them in a practitioner role of relaying their research to HBCU presidents, administrators, and staff.

I also compiled a spreadsheet highlighting the risks and assets of HBCUs to inform the WHI-HBCU of our schools in jeopardy of losing Title IV funding and those making significant gains in other areas. For example the spreadsheet included HBCUs enrollment, percentage of Pell eligible students, accreditation, graduation, retention, and cohort default rates. All of these indicators create an additional lens for the WHI-HBCU to assess our institutions in a federal advocacy role.

Alignment with Career Goals

Prior to beginning this internship, I was unsure of my responsibilities. While compiling the 2013 annual report, I learned a lot about how federal agencies support HBCUs. As a HBCU advocate, my personal goal is to learn as much as possible about HBCUs and their funding. Completing this report illustrates how the federal government supports HBCUs through legislation and partnerships with agencies. It provides me an outlook of support from federal agencies and their role in sustaining this group of institutions.

Similarly this position directly aligns with my former experience as a Research Fellow at the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), where I advocated on behalf of private HBCUs. As a result both of these experiences and my research interests, mold my professional identify as a higher education researcher/policy analyst with a primary interest on HBCUs. My experiences provide me tools and resources to work with federal agencies and continue their contributions to HBCUs. This is extremely important because HBCUs receive the majority of their financial contributions from the federal government, with the Department of Education taking the lead. This all strengthens my platform as an advocate on behalf of HBCUs because I will eventually be able to communicate with primary contributors and reinforce these relationship for years to come. Additionally this experience builds my knowledge base and broadens my network of HBCU advocates and individuals from various offices within the Department of Education.

Final Thoughts

My experience left me with the following thoughts. Although HBCUs account for only 3% of Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) they only receive 3% of all federal contributions. Although issues with the WHI-HBCU 2013 remain to be addressed I believe the report is extremely valuable. It allows the WHI-HBCU staff to frame discussions with agency representatives about their contributions and brainstorm ways to increase funding.

Thank you to the WHI-HBCU staff including Dr. George Cooper, Dr. Ivory Toldson, Ron Blakely, Meldon Hollis, Sedika Franklin, and Elyse Jones for an amazing opportunity.

After final edits and approvals the WHI-HBCU 2013 Fiscal report will be available, but until then take a look at the previous reports at

GRAND OPENING of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions


Students from underrepresented populations face mounting barriers in obtaining access and completing postsecondary education. While myriad factors such as class and geographical environment certainly affect educational opportunities, the study of race and ethnicity remains vital to combating racial inequalities in higher education.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and Asian American, Native American and Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) are institutional lifelines for underserved students seeking higher education. The creation of these institutions emerged at a time when majority institutions refused admission or failed to provide inclusive policies to such students.

Today, these institutions serve as a tool to strengthen minority student voices, in conjunction with producing college graduates, professionals, uplifting minority serving communities, and inspiring others to continue in their traditions. These institutions continue to play a vital role, enrolling approximately 3.6 million (20%) of the undergraduate population.

ImageSource: Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, 2013

Today, January 21, 2014, marks an important milestone as the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education opens the Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSIs). Under the direction of Dr. Marybeth Gasman, CMSI strengthens the voice of underrepresented students at these institutions through research and student engagement. It seeks to serve students, faculty, administrators, and scholars in optimizing the uniqueness and resources of this diverse population. More important, CMSI provides implications for teaching, fostering community, and increasing racial diversity for any institution of higher education.

We invite you to take a look at CMSI’s website (, and take part in this community. You may become an instrument to broadcast these students’ voices.

5th Quarter

HBCUs are historically known for educating African Americans during a time when they were not afforded a postsecondary education elsewhere; account for 3% of postsecondary institutions but award approximately 20% of African American undergraduates; serve as the foundation for many African American Doctorates and Professionals; house Black Greek fraternities and sororities; and engage in friendly athletic rivalries. But the pulse of HBCUs are their BANDS. HBCU bands differ from Non-HBCU bands based on their soulful musical compositions, dance, and precision. The 5th Quarter is the time where you can see HBCUs perform.

If Pandora were to create a HBCU Band station, it would sound something like this…




HBCUs Face Financial Hardships

During the 2012-2013 academic year over 14,000 students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were denied aid from the Parent PLUS Loan. As a result HBCUs experienced a $160 million decrease in institutional revenue.

This event is characterized as one of the worst HBCUs face. In response organizations such as the United Negro College Fund (UNCF), National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), and Thurgood Marshall College Fund are working diligently to address these financial difficulties.

Take a glimpse of President William R. Harvey of Hampton University and Chair of President Obama’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, address on the current financial barriers HBCUs face and recommendation to work with the federal government to overcome these setbacks.

Today’s Youth DISCONNECTED with HBCUs


Often I, and many HBCU alumni, become shocked when today’s youth often ask, “What is a HBCU?” It becomes quite shocking to us because we grew up with family members who attended HBCUs or were knowledgeable that HBCUs served as the only option for Blacks to receive a Higher Education less than 60 years ago. From this I began to ask myself how is it that today’s youth are so unfamiliar with HBCUs?

I always argue that things are connected through history. Before the Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954) over 90% of Blacks attended HBCUs. Today, however, less than 13% of Blacks attend HBCUs. So how would today’s youth know or become aware of HBCUs when there is such a drastic decrease in the number of Blacks enrolled at HBCUs? Many parents of our current youth sought out the opportunity to attend integrated institutions and the resources available at those institutions. This could possibly have resulted in today’s youth having teachers or mentors that are not HBCU alumni, which also results in the lack of discussion about HBCUs.

From this proposition it becomes even clearer why HBCUs must actively recruit heavily for students in order to create an interest within today’s youth of these institutions. More importantly it makes our responsibility, as alumni, just as notable to discuss with today’s youth about attending a HBCU and why it could be the better possibility for many students in regards to their higher education. The ignorance of today’s youth about HBCUs is not their fault. But when these institutions are introduced to them, a keen interest is created and possible desire to attend. If we, as alumni, do not create discourse about HBCUs with today’s youth, how do we expect them to attend in the future?

Should HBCUs STILL exist?

During my research and discussions about my research, I am often asked the question of “should HBCUs still exist?” Yes. shockingly, as a graduate of an HBCU, initially I found it quite difficult to understand why anyone would question the existence of our institutions. I wondered if they were ignorant of the fact that although HBCUs account for only 2% of postsecondary education, they are ultimately responsible for producing over 20% of African American graduates. Although HBCUs access and financial resources may not be equal to PWIs across the board, research has shown that students learn more if not the same as their counterparts at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) in spite of these inequalities.

But still there’s this question of whether HBCUs should exist? Although I may have ill feelings towards this question it is one that should be asked. Through demonstrating the importance of our existence through our historical achievements and student academic gains we strongly support the existence of HBCUs. Below are examples of how people have questioned the existence of HBCUs:

  • Brown vs Board of Education allowed African American admissions into PWIs; as a result, enrollment at HBCUs decreased and HBCU enrollment has not increased since.
  • The better and brighter African American students and faculty attend PWIs (I beg to differ)
  • HBCU graduation rates at HBCUs are sub-par (Yes…but we must IMPROVE THEM!)
  • The federal government should not support HBCUs due to their diversity efforts at PWIs; thus seeming contradictory.

Yes, these are the arguments being made on the existence of HBCUs. I believe that some are valid and others invalid. However, my overall goal is to support the argument that HBCUs should exist because they serve a population of students that otherwise would not be afforded an opportunity to higher education. In doing so I ask you to ask more questions about HBCUs existence! Ask others outside of the “HBCU World” why should we continue to exist? What can occur within our institutions to improve our graduation rates and financial attainments? More importantly, what can we do to better ourselves as Alumni? Through these discussions we are better able to educate others about HBCUs and prove our existence.

Where are our African American Men…Prison or College?

Recently, I have had the opportunity to gain a first-hand account of how many African American males are in prison. Sadly, I left with the impression that majority of our African American males are incarcerated. However the “Cellblock vs. College” article explains that my outlook may actually be a myth.

Toldson and Morton, authors of this article, report that there are approximately 395,443 more African American males in college than in prison. Interesting? Yes, indeed. This myth that there are more African American males in prison has become so stereotypical that people have actually begun to believe it as factual.

So you must ask yourself, what factual information confirms Toldson and Morton’s notion that there are more African American males in college than prison.

  • In 2010 reports showed that 1,236,443 African American men were enrolled in college versus the 841, 000 serving time.
  • The institutions of higher education where African American males are enrolled in high percentages include: University of Phoenix-Online Campus, Strayer University, Central Texas College, Miami Dade College, University of Maryland – University College, FAMU, N.C. A & T, Troy University (AL), Texas Southern, CUNY New York City College of Technology, Florida State College at Jacksonville, Prairie View A & M (TX), Jackson State (MS), Southern University and A & M College , Morgan State University , Excelsoir College, Columbia College, Morehouse College, Liberty University, Howard University, Saint Leo University, Park University, Webster University, Nova Southeastern University, Hampton University and Harvard University. (HBCUs are highlighted)
  • In 2009 African American males represent 40% of the total male population incarcerated compared to 45% in 2000.
  • U. S. Census reports there’s approximately 17,945,068 African American males
  • 6.3 % of African American male are in college
  • 4.7% of African American males are in prison

Now that you’ve seen these figures, are you encouraged to concede the myth  that there are more African American males in prison than college? If so, how would you do that? Will you encourage an African American male or yourself (if you are an African American male) to attend and complete college and continue to challenge these numbers? Will you serve as a mentor to a young brother with hopes of obtaining a higher education but has no support? Or will you help our African American brothers in prison obtain the resources needed once they’ve completed their time to obtain an education?

I believe Oprah Winfrey said it best in her donation to the Men of Morehouse… “When you empower a black man, you light up the world. When you empower a black man, you empower families. You empower his wife. You empower sons. You empower daughters … You light up the world.”

Who will you empower?

A Time of Crisis: Natural Disaster ends Shaw University’s Spring 2011 Semester

As you know, we are not in control of any natural disaster. From the tornado that Shaw University recently experienced to Hurricane Katrina which occurred almost seven years ago; we have no control of the impact a natural disaster creates in our everyday lives. However, as a HBCU family, what can we do to assist our fellow HBCUs in “A Time of Crisis?”

Currently, Shaw University is at a standstill due to the severe damage which has occurred from a tornado this past Saturday. The University has indicated that students will finish this semester with the grades they’ve earned prior to the tornado due to only eight days remaining in the semester. Thus ending any chance to improve a final grade or possibility of graduating.

Is it just to end a semester due to a natural disaster or should other options be made available for the students?

In such a time as this, how can the HBCU family work together to assist these students in meeting their academic goals for 2011?

During the Fall of 2004, when hurricane Katrina hit our nation, I remember HBCUs unifying in their purpose. By transferring students from Southern, Dillard and Xavier University, HBCUs strived to carry on their mission to assist students from these universities in obtaining their academic goals and career pursuits. Financial assistance, student and academic services were provided to these students, with an extra effort in helping them adjust. What efforts are currently being made by our HBCU family to do the same for Shaw University?

In “A Time of Crisis,” we must keep our mission as HBCUs at our forefront and remain as a family. There are various factors constantly trying to deter us from our mission; therefore we must continue to unify in purpose. Because if we don’t who else will?

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