Commentary: Historically Black Colleges and Universities don’t need to be justified. They are here to stay.

Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Commentary: Historically Black Colleges and Universities don’t need to be justified. They are here to stay.
May 30
08:48 2019

By Dr. James B. Ewers Jr.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) have been a part of my personal and professional life. As such, they have impacted my life and who I am. They have created so many defining moments for me I have lost count. I defend them when I need to and laud them because they deserve it.

As I reflect now, growing up in Winston-Salem gave me a front row seat to the power of HBCUs. I went to Atkins High School and most teachers there graduated from black colleges. For example, Dr. Scales, my Spanish teacher, went to Spelman College in Atlanta and Mr. Green, my physical education teacher, went to North Carolina Central University in Durham.

My home state has the second most HBCUs in America. North Carolina has 11 and Alabama has 12. The records show most HBCUs are in the South. While some may offer a different view, segregation made them possible. Education has always been a staple of our communities. These institutions of higher learning have made a lasting imprint in America.

I knew that I would be attending an HBCU. During my elementary and high school days, I had a chance to see several of them. I liked what I saw, so when the time came, it was an easy choice to make.

Johnson C. Smith University, a private HBCU in Charlotte, became my college home for four years. It was the best decision for me. JCSU had a stellar reputation and had prominent alumni in Winston-Salem. The campus was the right size for me, and some of my friends, like Albert Jordan, were already there.

Adjusting to the campus was easy. The faculty and staff really cared about us. I can say without hesitation or reservation they wanted us to succeed. My teachers inspired me to do my best each day. I didn’t cut classes at Smith. Why? Because learning was fun, so I was motivated to go.

We were not numbers at JCSU; we were people. Our professors knew us by name. This made us feel like we were somebody. It made us feel like we were important and had a future. I am sure alumni from other HBCUs can say the same thing. New student orientation gave us the opportunity to meet students from different parts of the country and from all over the world.

The environment that Historically Black Colleges and Universities creates is what makes them so special. They instill in you an attitude of confidence and make you think critically about the world around you. Those intangibles provided me with the tools I needed for a successful professional life. While there, I had an extended family and made lifelong friends. The closeness made us get through some of the tough times. We grew academically, emotionally and spiritually.

My first experience attending an HBCU homecoming was when I was in high school. A family friend took some of us to a football game between North Carolina A&T College (now University) and Winston-Salem Teachers College (now State University). To watch the game, the bands, the fellowship and the pageantry was the most fun. You can’t describe an HBCU homecoming. You must go! If you have never attended one, please put it on your bucket list. You will be glad you did.

I am a tireless supporter of HBCUs, especially my alma mater. They take both diamonds and diamonds in the rough and make them leaders. They provide you with the support and the smarts to make it in this global society. HBCUs have the “it” factor. When you graduate, you realize what they did. An HBCU graduate can go into the public square and compete with anyone.

As HBCU alumni, we are ambassadors for them. We must give readily of our time, talent and resources. Somewhere in our neighborhood and in our city is a potential HBCU student. Our mission is to spread the word about the track record of these schools. They started a success model many years ago and it has not lost its power.

Let us proudly tell the stories about our institutions. They were life changing for us and they can be life changing for future generations. HBCU graduates and students, let us cheer our schools on to new levels of greatness and prosperity.

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