A group of “protesters” recently marched to Bethune-Cookman University and delivered a petition that objects to U.S. Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, speaking at the school’s commencement. Did you hear me? I said more than FIFTY THOUSAND people. The 2017 graduating class is currently booing Secretary DeVos and turning its back on her.
Now, let me let you in on a little secret; if those same 50,000 protesting folks had taken five minutes to go online and donate $15 to Bethune-Cookman instead of signing a petition, that school wouldn’t need to invite Betsy DeVos anywhere. They’d probably have enough money —and community support—to invite whomever they wanted to come speak to their students.
The same thing happened with Talladega College. Y’all were up in arms that the school’s band was going to perform at Donald Trump’s inauguration.
“How could they?” everyone exclaimed.
Talladega alumni were so pressed about the move that they started giving back their degrees in protest of the university’s decision. And do you know why the alumni had to give back their degrees (as opposed to something more potent, like you know, withholding cash)? I’ll tell you. It’s because they’d probably never given the school a dime, not one single, solitary red cent! Instead of choosing to make a real impact and letting their money speak for them, they decided to do something far less potent and merely symbolic. I hate to break it to them, but everybody working at Talladega already has a degree, and they really don’t care what you do with yours.
Now, the gag is that Bill O’Riley and Fox News viewers—the same folk we love to decry as racists—opened their wallets to Talladega. Not only did they give the students enough money to make it to the inauguration and back, but there was so much money left over, that the school was able to create scholarships with the surplus. THAT’s what makes an impact; not a petition.
My point is that we love to lament and throw our hands in the air when a Black institution goes under.
“Oh, it’s such a shame,” we say. “They ran it into the ground,” we complain. “They had to sell? There was nothing they could do to stay Black-owned?” we decry.
Yet, we never want to provide these schools and businesses with the support they need to stay solvent. If everybody talking about what a shame Betsy DeVos speaking at Bethune-Cookman is gave a regular donation, the situation would be entirely different. Contrary to popular belief, going to your homecoming is not support. Wearing your alma mater’s T-shirt is not support. Talking about how much you love your school on social media is not support. These institutions can’t run on air folks, they need money!
And I’m not saying that as an alum of an HBCU, I’m saying that as a PWI grad, who vividly remembers seeing one family donate $25 million to my school the first week I attended college. Now, I’m not saying you have to give that (though there are people in our communities who have it to give and don’t). What I am saying though, is that instead of making shoe companies and cell phone providers wealthy, we can take some of those dollars and support these institutions that are trying to support us. No amount is too small (Barack Obama taught us that with his 5.00 fundraising during his campaigns for president).
We like to talk a lot about Black love. And yeah, love is passion and feelings and all of that other stuff, but it’s so much more than that. Love is aiding, assisting, backing and supporting. It’s giving a helping hand to the people and things we care about when we see they’re in need, and it’s no secret that HBCUs are in need.
Instead of attacking and protesting historically Black collegiate institutions—when it’s clear that they’re ingratiating themselves to whomever they have to ingratiate themselves to in order to try to keep the doors open—we need to be thinking of ways we can offer support. Love is appreciation. Let’s show HBCUs how much we appreciate them by opening our wallets and thinking of constructive ways to show gratitude to the institutions who have churned out some of the best minds our community has ever seen.
In the words of former President, Barack Obama at the 2016 Democratic Presidential Convention, “Don’t boo, vote (or in this case, DONATE).”