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Howard University Alumni Create THE INITIATE to End Systemic Police Brutality

Leave it the HBCU grads to always find a solution and shine while doing it. A...

ASCAP Launches HBCU Paid Internship Program

ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, today announced the launch of a new paid internship program for students enrolled in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the U.S. This summer, the PRO

Al Payne Named Program Director at WHUR 96.3FM

Radio Veteran Al Payne Named Program Director at WHUR 96.3FM

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Washington, D.C. (Monday, August 19, 2019) – WHUR 96.3FM today announced that Al Payne is the new program director, bringing over two decades of programming experience to the flagship station of the Howard University Radio Network. 

Payne has worked at radio stations in Louisville, Detroit, Richmond, Dallas, and Baltimore.   “Al Payne is an innovative force in the radio industry and I am absolutely thrilled to welcome him to WHUR,” said WHUR General Manager Sean Plater.

Payne is no stranger to the Washington market.  He also worked up the radio dial at WKYS a decade ago.  “Al has the energy, experience, passion, and creativity needed to lead our Programming team, with a fresh perspective for the future.”

Most recently, Payne was the Program Director and Content Creator at KMJK Majic 107.3 in Kansas City, where he successfully raised the station’s ratings from #18 to #3.  “Growing up as an I-95 ‘radio kid,’ there were a few iconic stations that you could only dream of one day having the opportunity to program and influence.  96.3 WHUR is at the pinnacle of my personal list and to say that this is a blessing is a huge understatement,” said Payne.

“I look forward to working with the incredible GM, Sean Plater, to help this amazing team of world class broadcasters continue to entertain and serve the DMV under the umbrella of Howard University.”

Appreciating Toni Morrison’s Literary Legacy

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Appreciating Toni Morrison's Literary Legacy - C. Imani Williams

Toni Morrison - February 18, 1931 - August 5, 2019

The August 5, 2019 passing of 88-year-old Pulitzer and Nobel Literary prize winner Toni Morrison marks the transition of a literary icon. Whether one was introduced to Morrison’s works through library books, in a high school or college literature course, or through Amazon, it matters that her books are read.

From Howard University Student to Howard Profesor 

Born Chloe Ardelia Wofford, the Howard University graduate changed her name to Toni when schoolmates had difficulty pronouncing her given name.  Morrison would return to Howard to teach after earning a Master’s in Literature at Cornell University.

Queen Toni Morrison Wrote Truth With a Cape and a Crown 

Morrison dared do what many other Black writers struggled with. Writing truthfully and soulfully about societal issues plaguing Black folks was and are radical. The idea of showcasing Blackness is ofttimes usurped with the desire for white acceptance. Morrison wasn’t here to sugar coat things.

While Morrison’s work focused on Black life, her characters could be any race or ethnicity.  This may be one of the strongest arguments for people discovering Morrison’s work at various ages and its inter-generational appeal.

Uncovering the Depth In A Bluest Eye

“The Bluest Eye”, Morrison’s first novel was published in 1970. The book was controversial due to Morrison sharing “in-house” business, and ignoring Black Respectability Politics. Such politics demand Black people keep their “dirty laundry out of the streets.” Some denounced the in your face side-eye given through Morrison’s ink to systematic oppression and racism facing Black people, and the intra-cultural shame of sexual violence and incest.

White folks weren’t without their opinion on the matter. Morrison was a writing master and they had to get over it. She has had readers from all backgrounds because of her flow and un apologeticness.

Pecoal’s Peculiar Situation Spoke to the InHumanity of Man

Through the main character, Pecola Breedlove, readers are taken through cycles of family dysfunction. Just a child, Pecola already poor and lonely, is cruelly driven to insanity.  Her fall into mental illness, a direct result of the trauma from sexual violence suffered in her home, and the racism living outside her front door.

The evil of both worked in tangent to break down any sense of self-worth Pecola may have held. The self-hatred Pecola subscribed to, stained the pages of The Bluest Eye. It forces readers to understand the depth of self-loathing possible in the absence of self-love.

Truth is Still Truth 

Fifty-years after the release of The Bluest Eye, Black people still face unsurmountable racism and oppression, and Black girls still aren’t safe from sexual abuse. It was risky for Morrison in 1970, and there have been efforts to ban the book over the years. In response to critics of The Bluest Eye Morrison spoke her mind in 1994 by likening her book’s reception to how Pecola was treated by the world. Morrison made the world see what the world did to a Black girl child.

Another Reason We Appreciate Morrison

It’s another reason we appreciate Toni Morrison. What she saw in the everyday treatment of Black people while growing up during the Depression in 1940s Lorraine, OH was a catalyst to unlocking her gifts.

Morrison’s legacy of publications includes five children’s books, 11 novels, nine non-fiction works, two plays, and two short stories.

Morrison’s works on feminism demanded inclusion and space for Black women. As an educator, scholar, and member of the Black community Morrison lent her voice to essays where she penned powerfully conscious works. As book critique and reviewer, Morrison didn’t hold back. If she felt the writer was off point, her reviews reflected her lack of enthusiasm over the read.

 A Cause for Black Love and Unity 

What makes Morrison so remarkably relatable in a world of social media and Black folks coming together in unity, is her stance on Black Love and Community. That she insisted on there being safe spaces for Black girls, is extremely radical.  With that demand, Morrison threw a lifeline to Black girls everywhere. Radical Black anything is not looked at kindly from a white supremacist or unenlightened Black folk point of view.

While Morrison raised two sons whom she loved dearly, she was also about “ Black Love in Community”. Holding a special place in her heart for Black girls and women. This theme carried over from novels and poetry onto the big screen and onto theatre stages. Morrison’s commitment to craft and community says so much about who she was.

The Legacy of Greatness in Writing 

How wonderful for the lucky souls blessed to have taken a writing or literature course with Morrison at the head of the class, at any point in her career. Watching Morrison win two of the most prestigious literary recognitions, helps aspiring writers reach higher. That kind of graceful fierceness pushes us all to do better. With Morrison’s voice came an opening to better tell our stories.

Permission Granted to Women to Tell Their Stories 

She gave Black people permission to tell our stories. She also showed the naysayers that despite what some say, Black stories and lives, do matter. When Beloved came out in print it was a heavy read. Saturday mornings at the beauty shop (salon) found women holding court about Setha and Denver, and what of the ghost baby?

Morrison Unafraid to Deal With Black Respectability Politics 

When it hit the big screen and some Black people, again subscribing to Black Respectability Politics, couldn’t get into it. The supernatural ain’t Christian (even though those praying Sistas worked an exorcism), Oprah killing her baby,  the horror of having her babies milk sucked from her breasts by white rapists, Her man leaving her to fend for herself. And Danny Glover, showing his ass again. Some just weren’t yet ready. These were some Black people. Of course white folk had an even harder time with it.

Fans of Morrison’s Work Always Showing Up

Readers and fans of both Morrison and Lady “O” did show up. Maybe not in Hollywood glow up terms. But in terms of community. We went, we supported and we reveled in amazement at the depth in the characters. We took in all that symbolism, and we saw our aunties and cousins, and for certain, Big Mamas.

 I Am My Sisters Keeper

Morrison allowed Black women to be real as we worked to find ourselves.  It is needed as we heal from the “isms” of the world. Watching Morrison and Angela Davis together was seeing Black Royalty. Their relationship as mentor and mentee, to friends, to Sistas is full-circle. It’s “I Am My Sisters Keeper”, in full effect. It’s beautiful. With Morrison’s passing comes an opportunity to love on one another in community.

Thank you, Queen Toni Morrison 

Morrison has set the stage has completed with a job well done. She passes the torch and she’s well known for telling people to write it, get it done. The voices of her characters are familiar, we know them. They are us and we are them. Morrison was able to take us back through history up to the present and teach along the way. Her characters breathed. Thank you, Queen Toni Morrison, for sharing your gifts with the world.

HBCUs Should Increase Diversity (Guest Post)

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What is an HBCU? 

HBCUs, or historically black colleges and universities, are institutions founded prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for the explicit purpose of providing post-secondary education to blacks. The overwhelming majority of predominantly white institutions barred blacks access to higher learning. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 300,000 students attended an HBCU in 2015 and 9% of black college students enrolled in an HBCU the same year. There are currently 101 HBCUs in the United States, primarily concentrated in the South. The first HBCUs were founded in Pennsylvania and Ohio prior to the Civil War. These HBCUs sought to provide black youths with the basic education and training to become teachers or tradesmen. From this sentiment, grew long-standing HBCUs such as the Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, originally named the Institute for Colored Youth, Lincoln University, Howard University, etc. During the Civil War era, freed slaves were often denied access to higher education. Those who were fortunate enough to receive some semblance of education often did so under dangerous and less than desirable conditions. In 1862, the federal government passed the Morrill Act which provided land-grant colleges in each state but 17 of these institutions required their systems to be segregated and excluded blacks despite the direct endorsement from the government to have a more inclusive environment. The Morrill Act of 1890, sometimes called the Agricultural College Act of 1890, required states to established a separate land-grant college for blacks if blacks were to be excluded from the land-grant college currently provided. Many of the modern-day HBCUs were established to satisfy this measure. The acronym, HBCU, was coined by the Higher Education Act of 1965, which expanded federal funding for colleges and universities.

Advocacy for HBCUs in Government

Since then, HBCUs have received ardent aid from presidents such as Jimmy Carter, who established a federally funded program in 1980 within the Department of Education to distribute adequate resources and funds to strengthen HBCUs, to George H.W. Bush who signed Executive Order 12677, creating a presidential advisory board on HBCUs. In 2015, the Bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus was established by representatives Alma S. Adams and Bradley Byrne to advocate for HBCUs on Capitol Hill. Each year, the Department of Education deems one week in the fall “National HBCU Week” to celebrate the HBCUs and acknowledge certain stellar scholars and alumni from the HBCU community.

Diversity within HBCUs

An important distinction must be made: HBCUs are historically black colleges and universities. This indicates while they are predominantly black and were founded with the explicit purpose of providing blacks access to higher education, they were never, and should never be, exclusively black. HBCUs must reconcile preserving their rich histories with adapting to their financial constraints by allowing for an influx of a more diverse, and inevitably whiter, student body. According to the Pew Research Center, 17% of students enrolled in an HBCU was non-black, an uptick from 13% in 1980.  With this surge in non-black enrollment, fears have been stoked the HBCU will stray from its traditional roots and lose its status as majority-black, however, these fears should be tempered. In the chance HBCUs will become majority non-black, here’s the question I pose: Why should this detract from the richness of HBCUs? In a Vice interview, when a black male attending Morehouse was asked how he felt about whites entering the school, he answered: “I feel disrespected.” The history of these institutions are ingrained in their buildings, monuments, and across the campus. Diversity is a positive in all respects. Bringing whites into HBCUs bring varied perspectives as well. In addition, whites could very well have said the same regarding their predominantly white institutions. In 2017, Harvard for the first time in its 380-year history, had a majority, non-white incoming class. Harvard had its first class in 1636. The first black undergraduate, Beverly Garnett Williams, was admitted 1847, 211 years later. Williams, unfortunately, died before matriculating. Harvard did not accept another black student, Richard Theodore Greener, until 1870, who matriculated in 1874. Between 1636, the founding, and when a black actually received his degree, 1874, is a 238-year span of time. Harvard used to be an exclusively white institution. Clearly, in modern times, it is not. In its class of 2022, 15.2% were African American. Change is scary, but change is also formative. I understand the apprehensions, however, changing the composition of the student body has a great intangible advantage which is perspectives. Having more voices and different perspectives help add to the human experience and I think that having greater diversity within HBCUs can reel in fresh perspectives into conservations while still preserving the rich and expansive history of the HBCUs.