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New Congressional Caucus Champions HBCUs

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Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.), shown here, partnered with Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) to launch the Bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus. (Courtesy Photo)

Representative Alma Adams (D-N.C.), shown here, partnered with Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) to launch the Bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus. (Courtesy Photo)

By Jazelle Hunt
NNPA Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON (NNPA) – A little help may be on the way for historically Black colleges and universities struggling against falling financial support and an increasingly skeptical public.

The Bipartisan Congressional HBCU Caucus was launched last week, with Congressional members Representatives Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.) at the helm. Its 45 members and counting are charged with safeguarding the interests of historically Black colleges and universities, supporting students and graduates; creating a national dialogue; and educating other members of Congress on the value of these institutions.

“This bipartisan HBCU Caucus is bringing together champions for HBCUs, so that we can make an even bigger impact to ensure their needs are heard in every aspect of policy making and across party lines,” said Rep. Adams, creator and co-chair of the caucus, alumna of North Carolina A&T State University, and former administrator at her alma mater and Bennett College, both in Greensboro, N.C.

“[HBCUs] do what no other schools do for students like me, a poor Black girl from Newark, New Jersey who came to North Carolina – wasn’t fully prepared – but yet North Carolina took me in, got me prepared, and I was able to do what I’m doing right now.”

The caucus comes at a time when HBCUs are facing a barrage of challenges. In 2011, Congress put more funding toward need-based Pell grants, but lowered the cap to 12 semesters (or six school years) instead of the previous 18. Non-traditional students, such as parents, veterans, and people beyond their early 20s, as well as low-income students who work part-time, often have complicated circumstances that make it difficult to go straight through four years of school full time. For such students, it can take several years to earn a degree.

“Many of our young people really do have to work…to pay for education. So a large majority of students we serve at our HBCUs in particular are on financial aid – several types of financial aid,” said Rep. Adams at a launch event for the Caucus. “We talk about access and affordability. You don’t have access if you don’t have the check to go with it.”

The same year, federal parent PLUS loan requirements were changed in an effort to keep financially burdened families from taking on more debt. The changes went into effect almost immediately, and thousands of previously approved parents were abruptly denied for a renewal. As a result thousands of students – largely Black, low-income, and first-generation – were forced to pause or delay their college educations. According to data from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, enrollment at HBCUs fell 3.4 percent for fall 2012. The number of students with PLUS loans fell 46 percent, and HBCUs saw a 36 percent decrease in the awarded dollar amounts. That meant fewer students able to continue college, and less revenue for the schools.

The Obama administration has corrected this oversight, but the damage has been done.

“Our parents spend much more money on educating their children than White families do. That’s just a fact, if you look at percentage of income,” said caucus member Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) at the same event. “We’re talking about good students who need an opportunity, who need to go into an environment that’s nurturing. So we are going to have to fight for these HBCUs.”

There is also less aid available for institutions. According to a 2014 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, state schools now rely on students fees and tuition for 48 percent of their revenues, compared to 24 percent in 1988. Of the nation’s 105 HBCUs, nearly half are state schools. Meanwhile, Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Florida, and Delaware were all caught withholding state funds specifically from their HBCUs.

The Department of Education shells out roughly $300 million for Black schools each year. But this funding, like all federal money, can change without warning from year to year. Howard University, for example, is a private school, but has historically had its own line in the budget that serves as a critical source of funding. In 2012, this funding was cut by more than $12 million, and has remained at that amount each year since.

The Obama administration has attempted to work around the financial squeeze by awarding of grants and contracts to HBCUs through the White House Initiative on HBCUs, but some reports state that the amount of these awards is also on the decline.

President Obama’s America’s College Promise comes on the heels of these blows. The proposal offers the first two years of community college free for students who attend consistently and at least part-time, and maintain a 2.5 GPA. However, HBCUs and community colleges have always competed for non-traditional students, as well as students who need extra instruction or assistance to get acclimated and succeed in college. With this proposal and slim chances for HBCUs to match the offer, community colleges may be a more attractive choice.

“Anybody that tells you that these schools aren’t needed, ask them what is happening on the other end of the spectrum, when we are getting rid of affirmative action admissions policies, we’re getting rid of various formulae that’s used to fund schools, and then you want to close down HBCUs,” said Rep. Clyburn. “It means we are on track to creating a permanent underclass in this country.”

Despite these challenges, HBCUs still manage to produce crucial results.

Despite serving just 3 percent of the nation’s college students, the 107 HBCUs graduate nearly 20 percent of African Americans who earn undergraduate degrees and more than 50 percent of African American professionals and public school teachers.

“HBCUs have long been an important part of our nation’s higher education system,” said Rep. Byrne, co-chair of the caucus. “HBCUs deal with many of the same challenges as other higher education institutions, but they also face unique obstacles that demand special attention. Our nation’s HBCUs are evolving as they adapt to a changing workforce, and through this caucus, I look forward to helping guide the conversation about how we can best support our nation’s HBCUs.”

Follow Jazelle Hunt on Twitter at @JazelleAH.

Activism

Advocates Pressure Gov. Newsom to Fund Health Equity, Racial Justice in Final Budget

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

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Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.
Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund.

By Edward Henderson, California Black Media

On June 8, community leaders, public health advocates and racial justice groups convened for a virtual press event to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to support the Health Equity and Racial Justice Fund (HERJ Fund).

The initiative supports community-based organizations addressing the underlying social, environmental and economic factors that limit people’s opportunities to be healthy — such as poverty, violence and trauma, environmental hazards, and access to affordable housing and healthy food. Health advocates would also address longstanding California problems related to health equity and racial justice problems.

The fund cleared a significant hurdle last week when the state Legislature included $75 million in their joint budget proposal. This means both the Assembly and Senate support the HERJ Fund and they will go into negotiations with the governor to seek his support to approve it.

“Our state boasts a staggering $97 billion budget surplus,” said Ron Coleman, managing director of the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. “If not now, when? Given the devastating impact of racism on the health and well-being of Californians of color it’s a travesty of the highest order that racial justice isn’t even mentioned in the Governor’s budget proposal,”

Last Wednesday’s virtual community meeting and press event capped off a series of rallies held by supporters in cities across the state calling on Newsom to make room in his budget for the HERJ Fund.

Coleman facilitated the online event featuring representatives from service organizations speaking about their support for the fund and presenting plans for how the money would be used to support their shared mission of providing services to minority and underserved communities in California.

Jenedra Sykes, a partner at Arboreta Group, spoke about inequalities that exist in funding for smaller grassroots nonprofits and how traditionally larger, white-led nonprofits use state funds to subcontract with grassroots nonprofits to provide services to communities of color at lower costs.

“The faith-based non-profits on the ground have the relationships, the access to those who are most vulnerable and marginalized among us who disproportionately have poorer health outcomes,” said Sykes. “This bill also evens the playing field a bit. Instead of going through the middleman of the established larger non-profits, funding will go directly to the people who are doing the work. The passion, the heart, the skills, the talents are there. It’s about the resources to fund these talents”

Coleman gave attendees an update on the status of the HERJ Fund’s path to inclusion in the state budget.

Now that the state Legislature has included the fund in their spending proposal for Fiscal Year 2022-23 (it was not included in Newsom’s “May Revise”), it must survive negotiations with the governor’s office before the June 15 deadline to finalize the budget.

A final budget needs to be in place by June 30, the last day for the governor to approve.

HERJ Fund supporters remain hopeful that funding for their program will be included in the final budget.

Updated mechanisms about the budget were added to the HERJ Fund’s proposal to alleviate those concerns and supporters of the fund believe that Newsom is out of excuses.

“Our best shot at getting the HERJ Fund in the budget is now. We are hoping that all of you will keep the pressure on the governor to ensure that this becomes a reality,” Coleman said. “If he does care about the intersections of health equity and racial justice then we will see funding.”

Attendees were encouraged to contact the governor’s office and the Legislature to keep the pressure on them to include the fund. You can visit herjfund.org to learn more about the proposal and the effort to include it in the state budget.

Nadia Kean-Ayub, executive director of Rainbow Spaces, shared details about the valuable events and services community-based non-profits provide. She said there is no shortage of families in need who want to participate in their organizations’ programs but, due to limited funding for transportation, many people never access services meant to help them.

“This tells me that when things are created in our communities, they are not making the impact we need in our Black, Brown and API communities,” Kean-Ayub said. “I will continue to fight. To really make this grow, we need the state to understand that the true impact comes from the community and the people who are living these issues and who know how to help them.”

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Bay Area

Community Banking to Community Building

At the heart of our business is the local community bank branch. But a local bank branch, especially in underserved neighborhoods, can be successful only when it fits the community’s needs. That’s why, over the last several years, we have shifted our approach from community banking to “community building” – a boots on the ground approach to better serve the needs of our local communities.

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As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.
As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.

Juneteenth is a day like no other. It is both a celebration of freedom and a reminder of the work that still must be done to bring about a more equitable society. So, as we recognize Juneteenth this year, now is the time to harness what unites us and help bring about changes that benefit all communities.

Taking actions focused on racial equity, along with diversity and inclusion, requires collaboration and building trust in the community. JPMorgan Chase is helping to drive sustainable changes through its five-year $30 billion racial equity commitment. With a business-led approach, this commitment aims to help address key drivers of the racial wealth divide in Black, Latino and Hispanic communities by investing in them directly.

Since its launch in October 2020, we have deployed or committed more than $18 billion toward our $30 billion goal. To sustain this progress, we must measure this effort and listen to feedback so we can have even greater impact in closing the wealth gap.

Here is just some of the progress we’ve made toward our commitment while working alongside our community partners across the country thus far:

  • Helped homeowners save money on their monthly mortgage payments by refinancing 19,000 of our 20,000 incremental loans goal
  • Approved funding for approximately $13 billion in loans to help create and preserve more than 100,000 affordable housing and rental units across the U.S.
  • Expanded our homebuyer grant program to $5,000 to help with down payment and closing costs
  • Helped customers open over 200,000 low-cost checking accounts with no overdraft fees
  • Spent an additional $155 million with 140 Black, Hispanic and Latino suppliers
  • Invested more than $100 million of equity in 15 diverse financial institutions that serve more than 89 communities in 19 states and the District of Columbia
  • Mentored more than 1,000 Black, Hispanic and Latino small businesses

Creating Community Impact

At the heart of our business is the local community bank branch. But a local bank branch, especially in underserved neighborhoods, can be successful only when it fits the community’s needs. That’s why, over the last several years, we have shifted our approach from community banking to “community building” – a boots on the ground approach to better serve the needs of our local communities.

Our Community Center branches are the most tangible symbols of our commitment to community building, as they were created to be a unique space in the heart of urban communities that hosts grassroots community events, small business mentoring sessions and financial health seminars.

Currently, we have 12 Community Center branches in neighborhoods like in Oakland, Stony Island in the South Shore of Chicago, Crenshaw in Los Angeles, and Wards 7 and 8 in Wash., D.C.

We’ll continue to add these Community Center branches in underserved communities in Miami, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tulsa by the end of this year. We’ve also retrofitted over 300 existing branches, to now include spaces for the community to use to help expand access to banking and boost financial health and inclusion among Black, Hispanic and Latino communities.

A More Diverse Workforce

Creating a lasting impact is just as much about the people we hire as it is about the programs we implement. More diverse teams will allow us to generate better ideas and better outcomes, enjoy a stronger corporate culture and deliver a more transformational banking experience to our customers.

Despite the pandemic and talent retention challenges, we continue to boost our representation especially among women and people of color.

We want our branches to represent the neighborhoods they serve, which is why we continue to hire from our local communities. During this time, we’ve hired more than 300 people to community-focused roles: nearly 150 Community Managers, 150 Community Home Lending Advisors, as well as 25 diverse Senior Business Consultants.

The Community Center Manager, in particular, is a new role within the bank whose main job is to serve as local ambassadors to build trust and nurture relationships with community leaders, nonprofit partners, and small businesses.

Over the last year our Community Managers have hosted more than 1,300 community events reaching more than 36,000 nationwide with discussions ranging from ways to increase homeownership, and how to build generational wealth and stability.

As we celebrate Juneteenth this year, we are reminded of the promise and hope of the future.

We are committed to ensuring that you have the resources you need to own a home, start a business, save for college – or achieve any other goals or dreams. We look forward to working together and continuing to create lasting impact for your community and family for years to come.

Sponsored content from JPMorgan Chase & Co

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Black History

COMMENTARY: Juneteenth Holiday Touches Collective Memory of African American: It Deserves Honor

Dec. 31, 1862, then, would become the Watch Night of all Watch Nights. Ninety-nine days earlier, Pres. Abraham Lincoln had announced his intention to free people enslaved in most of the Southern states. It was sometime late the morning of Jan. 1, 1863, when Lincoln finally signed the document known as the Emancipation Proclamation and word immediately crossed the country, tapped out in Morse code on telegraph wires.

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Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.
Martha Yates Jones (left) and Pinkie Yates (right), daughters of Rev. Jack Yates, in a decorated carriage parked in front of the Antioch Baptist Church located in Houston's Fourth Ward, 1908. Photo courtesy of Houston Public Library Digital Collection.

By Wanda J. Ravernell

It was a long time coming.

For centuries, they had prayed, fought and died seeking freedom from slavery.

The day they had awaited they called ‘Jubilee.’

Depending on where they resided, the day of ‘Jubilee’ came in fits and starts. In New Hampshire, the last slave was freed in 1853, New York in 1827 and Pennsylvania by 1810.

Enslaved people vicariously celebrated the 1791 revolt in Haiti leading to the first Black republic in the Western Hemisphere in 1804. The 1834 manumission of Blacks in Jamaica was another milestone.

During the slave era, New Year’s Day was dreaded as it was when enslavers settled their debts with the lives of their ‘property.’ New Year’s Eve, then was not celebrated, but rather spent in fervent prayer that their loved ones not be sold away.

Dec. 31, 1862, then, would become the Watch Night of all Watch Nights. Ninety-nine days earlier, Pres. Abraham Lincoln had announced his intention to free people enslaved in most of the Southern states. It was sometime late the morning of Jan. 1, 1863, when Lincoln finally signed the document known as the Emancipation Proclamation and word immediately crossed the country, tapped out in Morse code on telegraph wires.

But news of Jubilee didn’t reach Texas.

It would be two and half years and more than two months after the Confederate army surrendered to a Union Army that included Black men that soldiers brought the news to Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865.

The date would be contracted to Juneteenth and become the most widely and continuous celebration of the end of slavery in the U.S. Other states had Freedom Day or Emancipation Day, but those observations had died out as, for the sake of assimilation, Blacks distanced themselves from that dark past.

But not Black Texans, who took their custom with them during the Great Migration that began in earnest in 1915.

In Western cities with sizeable Black populations Juneteenth observations sprang up without the sanction of local government. (Texas would declare Juneteenth a statewide holiday in 1980.)

San Francisco (48 years), Berkeley (35 years), San Jose (41 years) and Vallejo (28 years) are Bay Area cities that have formalized the observation.

In Oakland, for the third year, Councilmember Loren Taylor and Project Lend A Hand– which provides school supplies for needy children — will hold a Juneteenth fundraiser called In the Town.

Barbara Howard of Brilliant Minds Inc., has held a Juneteenth the Last Saturday of the month since 2008. It will take place on June 25, 2022 ,at 925 Brockhurst St. It is free and open to the public

Others, like American Canyon, are holding their first Juneteenths, now that it has become the latest federal holiday, signed into law by Pres. Joe Biden on June 17, 2021.

Juneteenths have typically followed the pattern of those in Texas with parades, barbecues, and festivals, but making Juneteenth a national holiday has some Black people wondering what to do.

Unlike the other holidays that mark the summer, this one has meaning closer to our collective heart.

Frederick Douglass famously asked, “to what is the slave the Fourth of July?” because they had no freedom to celebrate.

Flowers brought to gravesides mark the monuments to loss on Memorial and Veterans’ Day.

But for many of us, these holidays (holy days) are mostly opportunities to gather with loved ones, have some food, play cards, eat some ’que and dance to recorded music in the summer and sleep late on chilly November 11.

So, what do we do with this holiday? This clearly holy day for our enslaved ancestors? How do we honor those who didn’t live to see the day of Jubilee?

And then there’s the quintessential question pushing forward from the back of the collective Black mind: How free are we? With mass incarceration and the persistent ills of the modern Jim Crow era, some would say that slavery never ended.

Research shows that in the initial decades after the news reached Galveston, the formerly enslaved went to church and prayed and gave thanks for the freedom they had attained.

More than 150 years later, perhaps we can set our natural cynicism aside long enough to be happy for our ancestors’ moment.

Perhaps, we won’t go to church. But we can light a candle. We can sing a freedom song together or sing the Black National Anthem in its entirety. We can hang the black, red and green Liberation colors or the Juneteenth flag in the front window.

We can set aside a symbolic plate of ’que, potato salad and greens and pour on the ground a libation of some red drink – hibiscus or Johnny Walker Red.

We can express our gratitude that they lived so we could live.

But perhaps most important, we need to teach our children. And maybe, just maybe they’ll bless us with a freestyle rhyme in the holy names of our ancestors.

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