Why Black Associations are Still Necessary
It was hard not to notice the low attendance at this year’s annual meeting of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). In hushed voices attendees murmured their concerns about the future of the organization, some even questioning whether NAFEO is still viable.
In the Black Issues editorial meeting that followed that convention, we decided it was a good time to proceed with an investigative story on the association — an article that we had been talking about for some time. We had no idea, then, that the process would turn out to be as arduous as it eventually became.
The biggest obstacle to writing this story was finding people who were willing to go on the record with their criticism and concerns about the organization. Some hesitated in trepidation that their comments might incite retaliation. Others made it clear that they were reluctant to be critical because they feared their comments might do the organization harm. Nearly everyone we approached, however, said they were glad we were doing the story and that they couldn’t wait to read it. Well here it is folks, on the cover of this edition.
Anyone who has been paying attention to current events lately can see that the need for Black organizations has not ebbed, even as the 20th century rolls away. Let me jog your memory. A few weeks ago the Tony Awards producers’ decided not to broadcast the performance of an excerpt from a Black musical — the only Black show featured on the program — ostensibly because it would have pushed the show beyond its 11 p.m. deadline. That same week Black Hollywood hosted the Acapulco Black Film Festival, which was founded because Black filmmakers were tired of being ignored by the wider, and indeed Whiter, film community.
Elsewhere, a Black-owned and operated cab company in Miami is fighting to survive both the evils of the streets and county officials who are considering legislation that may put them out of business. Even while other cab companies outright refuse to enter the largely poor inner city community that the Black company serves. And only a few editions ago, Black Issues reported that the Black Caucus of the American Association of Higher Education was protesting the AAHE’s decision to hold an upcoming convention in an anti-affirmative action state.
Like Marvin Gaye once said, “Makes ya’ wanna hollar, throw up both your hands.”
Despite the phenomenal progress that Black folks have made in this society, we still face a greater chance than others of being overlooked, ignored, or downright discriminated against— professional circumstances not excluded. One of the best antidotes against the mental, intellectual, and emotional damage these offenses can cause is the creation of our own organizations. And while nurturing them is often a struggle, it is a little scary to consider where we’d be in their absence.
While our organizations may not be all that we wish they could be, most are not beyond repair. Perhaps those who took the risk of voicing their concerns about NAFEO will break the self-inflicted conspiracy of private vitriol and public silence that is colluding with other forces to inhibit the organization’s, and subsequently the academy’s, health and growth. Where there is courage, there is hope.
Cheryl D. Fields, Executive Editor
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