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An Apology and a Renewed Commitment

An Apology and a Renewed Commitment
To our Women and our HBCUs

Maybe the first thing we need to do as men is to go ahead and apologize to Black women. This simple but powerfully symbolic act, though not a cure all, would be a step in the right direction.
A few years ago, actor Blair Underwood and a few of his colleagues must have felt the same way when they produced the documentary “Sister, I’m Sorry.” Feelings of remorse toward women in the African American community obviously run deep, because it also was one of the dominant themes of the historic Million Man March. It was as if all of these men came together to say, “We’re sorry for all the hurt that we have caused, but we commit ourselves to doing better in the future.”
And while Blair Underwood’s documentary and The Million Man March focused on righting things with Black women, another bedrock institution in the African American community is deserving of an apology as well — our historically Black colleges and universities.
It may appear to be a strange analogy, but the parallels between Black women and HBCUs are striking. Here are just a few.
•Both have earned, need and deserve our love, support and respect;
•Both unconditionally nurture, take care of and educate our children;
•Both are always there for us;
•Both are foolishly taken for granted by us; and     
•Both have a beauty that often defies popular notions of what is considered “beautiful.”
I’m sure you could add many other parallels.
The late Tammy Wynette took a lot of heat for suggesting that women “stand by their man.” Might I suggest that as real men we stand by women. Might I also suggest that as college-educated men and women we stand by our historically Black institutions.
There always have existed many outstanding examples of loyalty and support for Black colleges and Black women. The Cosby’s $20 million gift to Spelman stands out as a stellar example of commitment to both HBCUs and African American women. Every day we see evidence that their astute act of kindness was not an anomaly.
The statistics in this edition give a paradoxical glimpse of the status of Black women and HBCUs. Even as our female students are enrolling, graduating and, in general, excelling in unprecedented fashion, they too often pay a high social and interpersonal cost, due in part to inconsiderate acts on the part of male students, faculty and administrators. We must change this deeply rooted pattern.
My mother, Lottie, and Morris College, an HBCU in South Carolina, could be poster children for the twin ideals of love and endurance. Pictured on this page is my mother on graduation day 1953, from the then small and now flourishing, Morris College. While pursuing her degree, she bore four of five sons. She taught first grade for the next 35 years and along with my father, Wheeler, saw to it that her children had the opportunities to become engineers, a hospital administrator, a jet mechanic and a college professor/magazine publisher. My mother’s starting salary was $1,900 a year. Her salary at retirement? Approximately $20,000.
When asked whether she felt cheated or deserved an apology, she says, “Of course not — look at how things turned out for me, my family and for Morris College.”
Still an apology and a renewed commitment to Black women wouldn’t hurt. 

Frank Matthews

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