I write this letter on the eve of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, an larger than life icon of epic proportions. Dr. King changed the world through his fearless leadership and unwavering hope at what life could be after the tumultuous times of the Jim Crow era. We often forget to mention many things about Dr. King. One often forgotten fact about Dr. King is that he was a heavy proponent of economic empowerment. A few weeks before his death he gave a fiery speech in support of black people getting reparations and speaking against the systemic inequities that white communities benefit from.
An even more glossed over aspect of Dr. King’s life is that he’s an HBCU graduate. Dr. King attended Morehouse College, in which he enrolled at the age of 15. He grew into the leader that we know today on the campus of Morehouse. He pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. He made the call in 1947, a year before graduating, to accept his calling as a preacher of the gospel. He was only 18. Dr. King would’ve been trailblazing no matter where he went or what he did. Morehouse set the foundation for him though. It gave him an outlet to hone his talents and sharpen his philosophies, pushing him to the heights of eternal glory.
This MLK Day, Bennett College faces an existential crisis. Bennett, the sister institution of Morehouse, has been charged with the lofty goal of raising $5 million dollars by February 1st to maintain its accreditation and keep its doors open. You would expect for the $5 million dollars to be raised in a matter of days. In this politically charged time, you’d expect for there to be an overwhelming wave of support to keep a safe space for black women such as Bennett College open. Yet, things have been awfully silent. The Belle’s have rallied. Brooke Kane, Miss Bennett College, has sounded the alarm amongst the HBCU student community. Jada Brown, Miss North Carolina Agricultural & Mechanical University, sparked a movement to sequester Ebony Magazine to shine media attention on Bennett College. Yet, things have still been relatively quiet.
Quiet is a relative term. There have been articles about the issue. As you’ve probably seen, we here at HBCU Pulse have been on top of this story since December. We’ve worked hand-in-hand with Brooke to get the word out about donating to Bennett College in this time of crisis. Pages like HBCU Pride Nation, HBCU Grad, HBCU Alum, HBCU Startups, Delta Fierce and several others have shown their unwavering support for Bennett. Several media interviews have been conducted with Bennett President Phyllis Dawkins. I know you have to be thinking, “How have things been quiet?” One sector of the black community has been speaking out, especially in recent weeks. What about our celebrities?
Black celebrities drive the conversation of this nation. If Beyonce dropped an album tonight she’d be the #1 trending topic on Twitter. A 58-minute interview with Soulja Boy on The Breakfast Club garnered 3.8 million views in a day. We drive the narrative on social media. Why haven’t we forced the mainstream to support Bennett College? Often times I wonder if these celebrities even know that Bennett is in this crisis. I spoke with Regina Martin, one of my friends and a mass communications peer, and she said something that really made me think. How would these celebrities and dignitaries know that Bennett is in this crisis? How would they know Bethune-Cookman is close to this same end as well? How are they getting their news?
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We are a week and a few days removed from February 1st. It’s time to take extreme measures. We must hold our black celebrities accountable in their positions of prestige and power. Tom Joyner is retiring from radio at the end of this year. He’s been one of the biggest advocates for HBCU’s that we’ve ever. Period! What happens when we lose that valuable, daily national voice? Who picks up for him in his immediate absence? Looking at how the Bennett situation has been handled in the media, who really knows?
On February 4, 1968, Dr. King gave a speech that’s called the “Drum Major Instinct”. That’s why Dr. King is often called the “Drum Major For Justice”. Drums are instruments that emmitt a loud sound when it’s struck. On this MLK day, we must beat the drum to push for their to be more support of Bennett College. We must keep her doors open. We must protect this safe space. We must continue to beat the drum. That’s what Dr. King would’ve done. That’s what he would’ve wanted, as a proud Morehouse alumnus. We must continue to beat the drum!
I call on these celebrities to donate or, at the very least, call on their fans/followers to donate to Bennett College!
- Beyonce & Jay Z (The Carters)
- Chance The Rapper
- Charlamagne Tha God
- Charles Barkley
- Diddy (Howard)
- DJ Envy (Hampton)
- Wanda Sykes (Hampton)
- Taraji P. Henson (NCAT/Howard)
- Common (FAMU)
- Will Packer (FAMU)
- Rob Hardy (FAMU)
- Erykah Badu (Grambling)
- Ruben Studdard (Alabama A&M)
- David Banner (Southern University)
- Terrence J (NCAT)
- Yolanda Adams (Texas Southern)
- Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State)
- Marquette King (FVSU)
Feel free to add more celebrities to this list and let’s contact them one-by-one to see what they can do to help us with this movement. It’s a long shot but you don’t make the shots you don’t take. We must be fearless and continue to fight for change the same way that Dr. King did.