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Fighting the Same Fight

Fighting the Same Fight

A  change in leadership often has a way of re-energizing the troops so to speak. Armed with new ideas and a fresh perspective, new leaders can get those around them to think “outside the box” — often for the first time in a long time.
Our cover story for this edition looks at the representation of historically Black colleges and universities in the nation’s capital, including interviews with the new president-CEOs of two of the leading organizations voicing the concerns of HBCUs in Washington — the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF).
Although their missions are slightly different, both NAFEO and UNCF advocate on behalf of HBCUs. And this has not always led to the most harmonious of working relationships. The new leadership appears to want to change that.
“Washington is a difficult playing field, and it’s even harder to be advocates for minority education, African American access, when you are at odds in your community. I don’t think that needs to be the case,” says Dr. Michael Lomax, the new president and CEO of the UNCF.
We refer to the new leaders — Lezli Baskerville, president of NAFEO, and Lomax — as “fresh faces” as opposed to “new kids on the block,” because they might be new to their respective positions, but they are not new to the higher education scene or to the HBCU community. Baskerville has had a long-time working relationship with NAFEO, and Lomax most recently was president of historically Black Dillard University in New Orleans.
Needless to say, they are quite familiar with the challenges facing HBCUs.
One of the challenges that I know both leaders are thinking about is accreditation. Black Issues has reported on the lost accreditation of several HBCUs, most recently Barber-Scotia College. The Southern Education Foundation has a new three-year initiative to assist Black colleges in preparing for accreditation with the help of meetings, workshops and the disbursement of small grants. The Foundation is addressing a real need in the HBCU community, one that NAFEO and UNCF are also concerned about. SEF president Lynn Walker Huntley says a new day is dawning and that all HBCU stakeholders are going to have to work together as there is “enough work for all of us.”
SEF, the UNCF, NAFEO, the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund — these organizations obviously all share a passion for HBCUs, and they want everyone to know that despite some of the challenges these schools face, HBCUs do a lot of things right. At the end of the day, they are fighting the same fight. And sometimes it takes a change in leadership to embrace the idea of working with those with a common cause.
Ask the Black community in Charleston, S.C., about change, and they’ll tell you there has been a profound change at The Citadel. The military college, which historically has been perceived as unwelcoming to minorities and women, has launched an African American studies degree program with the arrival of Dr. Marcus Cox, assistant professor of history. As the chair of The Citadel’s history department says about launching the new program, the department was ready, the institution was ready, and most importantly, the students were ready — ready for change.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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