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HBCU Collective prepares for its second day of action

HBCU Collective prepares for its second day of action
April 12
12:00 2018

On Tuesday, April 17, they’re going back to Washington.

An estimated 200 students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCU’s) across the nation, coming to lobby members of Congress to increase financial support for students, increase funding for federal research grants, and more funding for campus facility upgrades.

The event is called, “ The Second Day of Action,” modeled after the first a year ago, sponsored by the HBCU Collective, and two of its designated leaders are from North Carolina HBCU’s.

Founder Robert Stephens, 32, is a 2008 alum of Winston-Salem State University, while one of his co-leaders, Shambulia Gadsden Sams, is an alumna hailing from Shaw University in Raleigh.

According to Stephens, who lives and works in Washington, D.C., he got the idea for the HBCU “Day of Action” last year after seeing President  Donald Trump invite various presidents and chancellors from HBCUs to the White House, under the guise of wanting to help their schools more than the previous Obama Administration.

Stephens said he was “very concerned,” especially after the president moved the HBCU Initiative from the Education Department to the White House.

“I thought it was a dangerous position to be in,” Stephens said. “Indeed, some members of the HBCU contingency felt [going to the White House] was just a photo opt.”

Stephens called student body presidents at various HBCUs, and all agreed that they didn’t trust the Trump Administration to be genuine in its promises. So they decided to mount the first “Day of Action” on Capital Hill, invited U.S. Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12), a retired Bennett College professor, among others, to speak at their press conference, and the rest is history.

The students, alumni, and other HBCU supporters walked the halls of Congress, lobbying on behalf of their cause.

When President Trump released his budget proposal last year, Stephens said one look convinced him that HBCUs were not a priority for the president. In fact, a lot of Title III funding that HBCUs traditionally got under President Obama, were cut by Trump.

It wasn’t until Congress put forth its own omnibus budget funding proposal, which indeed prioritized Pell Grant funding; increased funding for the HBCU Capital Financing Program; and increased funding for the TRIO and GEAR Up programs.

Overall, a $35 million increase in HBCU funding, which Stephens calls “significant.” But he adds that HBCU students shouldn’t have to twist arms every year, and that their schools should receive the same funding and consideration that predominately white colleges and universities receive.

“The oldest HBCU has been around for 200 years, “Stephens says. “We produce the most science, technology, engineering and math scholars; most black doctors, black lawyers, most black engineers. We’re saying that HBCUs make a huge contribution to society, and we just want to make sure that our schools are sustainable.”

Buses to attend the “Second Annual Day of Action” will leave from HBCUs across North Carolina early Tuesday morning, joining other buses from across the country headed toward Washington.

Stephens added that he’s very supportive of a voter registration drive for HBCU students, so that they can vote during the upcoming 2018 midterm elections.

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Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

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