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It Will Take Partnerships to Dismantle Criminal Injustices

HOUSTON FORWARD TIMES — The overrepresentation of Blacks in the criminal justice system is widely acknowledged.  Unfortunately, there are few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) producing the necessary research to support the criminal justice reform movement. A quick Google search on the role of HBCUs in criminal justice reform produces few results. Limited resources and no directed marketing approach – issues not unique to HBCUs –  make it difficult for HBCUs to be part of the reform.

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By David Baker and Howard Henderson

The overrepresentation of Blacks in the criminal justice system is widely acknowledged.  Unfortunately, there are few Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) producing the necessary research to support the criminal justice reform movement. A quick Google search on the role of HBCUs in criminal justice reform produces few results. Limited resources and no directed marketing approach – issues not unique to HBCUs –  make it difficult for HBCUs to be part of the reform. However, if we are going to ensure that we participate in the necessary changes to the criminal justice system, there must be more collaboration between HBCUs, the government and private organizations.

Partnerships between universities and foundations have existed for decades and is ever more necessary today (for recent examples see Center for Advancing Opportunity and the Charles Koch Foundation). The growing complexity of problems in our criminal justice system demands  an interdisciplinary approach. HBCUs are positioned to solve the complex challenges in creating a more equitable justice system. These partnerships are especially helpful to institutions traditionally limited in research dollars and human capital. Research grants are becoming more  difficult to acquire as a result of greater competition and fewer funding opportunities. Public universities used to thrive entirely on government funding. These days, higher education is receiving less and less of this funding, particularly in those areas researching social ills.

As government funding for social science research continues to decline, with the majority of available research dollars slanted toward STEM-based programs, criminal justice reform research has had to take an interdisciplinary approach. HBCUs are equipped to embrace both collaborative efforts and traditionally siloed disciplines, creating evidence-based solutions for the countless members of resilient communities. After all, research conducted at universities should be focused on improving everyday life for members of the community. Thus, amid the growing presence of research funded by foundations, every partnership provides its own nuanced distinction. If HBCUs are to remain relevant, we must take advantage of these necessary partnerships. In fact, the National Research Council notes that “Strengthening Partnerships with Business” is a top ten recommendation for competitive universities most likely to overcome the budget reductions of the state and federal government.

Contemporary Model

The Center for Justice Research (CJR) at Texas Southern University uses a multi-pronged funding approach to address social ills, motivate faculty research, and train the next generation of researchers respective of a culturally sensitive approach. There is a need to ensure criminal justice reform embraces the cultural and personal impact of those processed through the system. The value of this multi-pronged funding model lies in its ability to foster interdisciplinary reform-based research that has the potential to mature into a long-term university and community benefits.

CJR is a contemporary example of an HBCU – foundation partnership necessary to address a contemporary concern. This partnership model has the ability to change policy using locally accessed research, allowing agencies in need of research to maintain a link with the university as their programming matures. Providing a residence for start-up research in criminal justice reform within the HBCU academic space allows professionals to become embedded in the research setting with access to much needed information. At the same time, giving researchers and students direct access to professionals builds a network of knowledge and collaboration that is mutually beneficial.

However, long-term strategic alliances, focused around a specific area of study such as criminal justice reform efforts, has a great potential for immediate impact. Opportunities exists for HBCUs to partner with foundations at a variety of levels as they embrace a common set of objectives. This has indispensable efficiencies, such as breaking down barriers to intellectual data rights, creating transparency between entities, pooling resources, and streamlining the process of bringing research results from intellectual positions to stakeholders. Thus, the CJR model creates a framework for the rapid and open exchange of information between parties with shared vision and goals. Integrating an evidence-based, culturally responsive approach further expands the reach of the criminal justice reform movement.

This model can also inspire democratic innovation and discovery by linking together academia, government agencies, philanthropic organizations, non-governmental organizations, private investors and individuals who would otherwise remain disconnected.

Along these lines, any success of a partnership depends largely on several key factors, including:

  • research and funding collaborations;
  • mentoring the next generation of researchers;
  • developing a shared vision that identifies the purpose, framework and goals of the partnership;
  • identifying leaders who are capable of navigating that sensitive space between public and private entities;
  • creating a shared platform for the exchange of ideas and information that contribute to the overall goals of the partnership;
  • investing in long-term relationships.

By fostering more partnerships between HBCUs and foundations, we are better able to develop meaningful research and reforms intended to improve life chances for the countless members of resilient communities.

David Baker is a Research Fellow in the Center for Justice Research & Associate Professor and Howard Henderson, Director of the Center for Justice Research & Professor School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University

This article originally appeared in the Houston Forward Times

David Baker and Howard Henderson

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Miles College welcomes interim president Bobbie Knight   

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Miles College on Thursday prepared to say farewell to one member of the school’s family and embrace another. The institution welcomed Interim President Dr. Bobbie Knight and began a farewell to her predecessor Dr. George T. French Jr. who is leaving the Birmingham area to become president of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.

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Bobbie Knight, Miles College interim president, and Dr. George T. French, Jr., outgoing president, are shown before a press conference in Fairfield, Ala. (Photo by Mark Almond)
Bobbie Knight, Miles College interim president, and Dr. George T. French, Jr., outgoing president, are shown before a press conference in Fairfield, Ala. (Photo by Mark Almond)

By Erica Wright

Miles College on Thursday prepared to say farewell to one member of the school’s family and embrace another.

The institution welcomed Interim President Dr. Bobbie Knight and began a farewell to her predecessor Dr. George T. French Jr. who is leaving the Birmingham area to become president of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Knight will become the first female president of Miles College in the school’s 121 year history.

“I deliberated long and hard after I got over the initial shock of being asked to consider this opportunity and I have continuously prayed for the wisdom, strength and courage it will take to lead this institution with integrity, compassion and a servant’s heart,” said Knight, during a press conference.

The retired Alabama Power executive who is also chair of the Board of Managers for the Birmingham Times Media Group was named as interim president by the Board of Trustees on July 17.

“During this transition, the job before me is clear; first, to serve the students of Miles College by ensuring they receive a quality education, that they are equipped with the tools they need to be successful here and in the future and that they enjoy a safe and fulfilling campus life. Second, my job is to maintain a fiscally sound institution, I have a business background and my plan is to use business principles and practices to keep this institution financially strong.”

Knight will begin her duties Sept. 1, when French leaves for Atlanta.

Knight said her plans for the college are to continue to encourage students to enroll in Miles and the community to support the school.

The interim president said she will “continue to encourage students to enroll in Miles College. Miles is here, we’re an asset to this community and we don’t want to lose our kids out-of-state or to other colleges when we have a great institution sitting right here.”

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The French Tenure

French will end his tenure at Miles on Friday, Aug.16. Miles has been his home for more than 23 years with nine years as Director of Development and the last 14 as president.

“Thank you for the opportunity to lead this great institution for the last 14 years, for the opportunity to lead in having record enrollments of this institution, for the opportunity to raise over $100 million at Miles College, for the opportunity to more than triple the size of our campus,” said French.

The outgoing president said he was grateful for his time in the metro area.

“I say thank you to the Birmingham community; I say thank you to the Alabama community; I say thank you to a governor who has been supportive, to mayors of Birmingham and Fairfield who have been supportive and to a corporate community that has been supportive of this institution, we say thank you,” he said. “Now after 14 years at the helm, it gives me great pleasure to turn over the reins to my friend, a distinguished corporate citizen, a lover of students and of education, the Interim President of Miles College, Bobbie Knight.”

French said he will continue to be a part of the Miles family and looks forward to forming a partnership between the two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

“Clark Atlanta University saw what was going on at Miles College,” said French. “That research institution with 4,000 students was looking at Birmingham. They were looking at the relationship of alums to Miles College. They were looking at how we are turning this world upside down so we look forward to a partnership with Clark Atlanta University and Miles College. I’m looking for my students after they matriculate and walk across the stage with a bachelor’s degree, I’m looking for them to come to Clark Atlanta University for masters and doctoral degrees.”

Keila Lawrence, a senior and President of the Student Government Association at Miles, said the moment is bittersweet.

“Dr. French has been a visionary and I can only emulate and strive to be like him and his leadership because he’s done so much for Miles and it’s been great to work with him,” said Lawrence. “Of course, it’s bittersweet because he’s done so much, but he had the foresight and the board as well to elect Dr. Bobbie Knight and we’re really excited to work with her and it’s a new era for Miles and I’m truly excited to what’s to come in the future and what it holds.”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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BSU and HU Alumni Earn DC HBCU Alliance Awards

THE AFRO — Two distinguished alumni from Bowie State and Howard University are among the six-member class who will be presented with HBCU Alumni Awards September 20 as the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance holds its annual gala to honor outstanding contributions by local Historically Black College and University graduates.

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By Mark F. Gray

Two distinguished alumni from Bowie State and Howard University are among the six-member class who will be presented with HBCU Alumni Awards September 20 as the DC Metro HBCU Alumni Alliance holds its annual gala to honor outstanding contributions by local Historically Black College and University graduates.

Eunique Jones Gibson, a 2007 Bowie State University graduate, and Howard University alumnus Rosie Allen-Herring will be recognized during the ceremony at the 3rd Annual HBCU Alumni Black Tie Gala at the National Museum of Women in the Arts during the Congressional Black Caucus weekend.

Jones Gibson is described as a creative visionary, cultural architect, and social activist. She will be honored with the HBCU Alumni Media and Communications Award, which recognizes print and media professionals and journalists in radio, television, social media, and print publications.

Gibson has previously directed commercials featuring NBA all star Kevin Durant and R&B artist Jennifer Hudson. Her online advertising career began with Microsoft and she has worked with Nickelodeon and the Green Bay Packers as well.

Gibson has been noted for developing advertising and promotional campaigns that spark conversation. She has also used her talent to address timely and relevant issues impacting a variety of communities. After the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012, Gibson created her first photo awareness campaign, “I AM Trayvon Martin,” which spread through news and social media inspired the public to use it’s voice to highlight social injustices and the need for change in their neighborhoods.

In February 2013, Gibson launched the award-winning, “Because of Them We Can” photo campaign in time for Black History Month.  The campaign featured photographs of children, leaders, activists, and celebrities. It has evolved into a platform for the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors.

Last year Jones Gibson, a Maryland native, launched the Dream Village in Hyattsville. Dream Village is a co-working space that hopes to build a supportive community in both physical and virtual spaces.  The Dream Village opened in February 2018.

Rosie Allen-Herring is President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Way of the National Capital Area and will be honored with the HBCU Alumni Community Involvement Award which recognizes outstanding engagement in community programming for citizens and/or youth, and selfless volunteerism.

She has been recognized as one of the most powerful business women in the District three times since 2011, when she earned Washington Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business Award”.  In 2013 Allen-Herring was named Washingtonian Magazine’s “Most Powerful Woman” and Washington Business Journal’s “Most Influential Business Leader”.

Allen-Herring holds leadership roles with several business and civic organizations including: the Greater Washington Board of Trade, District of Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Washington Area Women’s Foundation, and Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital and Raise DC.

Raise DC is a partnership of more than 250 organizations   throughout the District and across public and private sectors working toward “cradle-to-career” goals in education and the workforce.   It’s programs are designed for all students to earn a postsecondary credential and for those who aren’t in school to receive the education and training that will prepare them for a sustainable career.

North Carolina A&T’s Iris Wagstaff earned the HBCU Alumni Education Award.  James McNeil, from Alabama State, the Founder, CEO and President of McNeil Technologies, Philandrophy, is being honored with Alumni Business Award. Former Senior Health Science Adviser to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Dr. William E. Bennett, from The Lincoln (PA) University class of 1950, will receive the HBCU Alumni Public Policy Award.   Leah M. Williams, Supply Chain Analyst from Delaware State earns the Young Alumni Award.

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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LeMoyne-Owen seeks stability with interim president

NEW TRI-STATE DEFENDER — Early reactions to the hiring of Dr. Carolyn Johnson-Dean as interim president of LeMoyne-Owen College are positive among LOC alumni. Given her predecessor’s tumultuous tenure, it should surprise no one that there is a recurring theme: Stability.

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Dr. Carolyn Johnson-Dean will become interim president of LeMoyne-Owen College on August 26. (Courtesy photo)
Dr. Carolyn Johnson-Dean will become interim president of LeMoyne-Owen College on August 26. (Courtesy photo)

By Lee Eric Smith

Early reactions to the hiring of Dr. Carolyn Johnson-Dean as interim president of LeMoyne-Owen College are positive among LOC alumni. Given her predecessor’s tumultuous tenure, it should surprise no one that there is a recurring theme:

Stability.

“I think it’s a great choice,” said Jesse Chatman, president of the LOC Alumni Association. “I wish her well. We need someone to come in here and stabilize things…and she’s a stabilizer. So I like the choice.”

Brian Clay, a 1992 alum, shared a similar sentiment.

“It’s a good move,” Clay said. “She doesn’t have a long history with LeMoyne-Owen, but what LOC needs now more than anything is stability.

“She can definitely bring that.”

The LOC Board of Trustees announced the appointment Monday in a press release. In June, the trustees board voted not to renew the four-year contract of Dr. Andrea Lewis Miller, the embattled former president whose contract expires Sept. 1.

Johnson-Dean’s tenure as president begins Aug. 26.

“It is truly an honor to assume the role of Interim President of LeMoyne-Owen College, an institution with a more than 150-year legacy in Memphis,” Johnson-Dean said in a statement.

In Memphis, Johnson-Dean is a safe, solid choice. She’s well-known and well-connected because of her 2003-07 stint as superintendent of Memphis City Schools. Her credentials also include being superintendent of schools in both Minneapolis and Boston.

She returned to Memphis in 2014 as an adviser to then-Shelby County Schools Supt. Dorsey Hopson. And as a current member of the LOC Board of Trustees, she’s a known quantity.

“Dr. Johnson-Dean’s breadth of educational leadership experience and unique understanding of the inner workings of HBCUs made her stand out as a highly qualified candidate for interim president,” said Dr. Christopher Davis, who was also announced as the new chairman of the LOC Board of Trustees, in a statement.

“Selecting Dr. Johnson-Dean to serve in this critical role is just one of the many great strides LeMoyne-Owen is making as we push forward in our mission.”

Chatman, a 1971 alumnus, believes Johnson’s tenure on the board will serve her well.

“She knows the inner workings of the college,” Chatman said. “And I’m pretty sure that the alums will rally behind her.”

Clay said Johnson-Dean should seek to boost morale among alumni, students and faculty, recounting a story from his freshman year (1987) when Dr. Irving McPhail was president.

“One thing I loved was how Dr. McPhail (took new students) through a process to kind of brainwash us into thinking we were at the best school in the world,” Clay said. “He wanted us to have a pride and sense of esteem about going to LeMoyne-Owen. That’s the kind of transition LOC needs to go through.

“You have to build morale,” he added. “You have to build enthusiasm with faculty and students.”

A spokeswoman for LOC said that Johnson-Dean would not be available for interview before TSD press time.

“As an HBCU, LeMoyne-Owen College continues to play an integral role in educating and serving students, many of whom are first-generation college-goers,” Johnson-Dean said in the statement.

“I am humbled at the tremendous opportunities that lie ahead for the College, and I look forward to working with faculty, students and community partners in this critical endeavor.”

In related news, a federal judge recently set an August 2020 date for a non-jury trial between the college’s board of trustees and faculty senate. The faculty sued the board, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract during Miller’s term as president.

Phone calls and emails to LOC Faculty Senate President Michael Robinson had received no response at TSD press time. Robinson presided over a faculty senate that twice gave a no-confidence vote to Miller.

LeMoyne-Owen will name a permanent president at a later date, the statement said. Chatman said the next president will have work to do in fundraising, enrollment, infrastructure and technology. He also thinks a new president will need to develop relationships throughout Memphis, particularly in the faith community.

In the interim, he’s delighted with Johnson-Dean.

“I think her selection will have a calming effect on the campus,” Chatman said. “And I truly believe from all the alums I’ve talked to so far, that they’re going to rally behind Dr. Johnson.”

This article originally appeared in the New Tri-State Defender

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Rankin Celebrates 125 Years

THE AFRO — In 2020, Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel will celebrate its 125th year of serving as a spiritual, historical and cultural center on Howard University’s campus.  Built between the years of 1894 and 1895, Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel has served as a pillar of truth, service and a spiritual oasis for students, faculty, staff, alumni, the greater Washington D.C. community and visitors from across the nation and throughout the world for almost 125 years. 

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Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel is celebrating its 125th year serving the Howard University spiritual community. (Courtesy Photo)
By Brianna McAdoo

In 2020, Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel will celebrate its 125th year of serving as a spiritual, historical and cultural center on Howard University’s campus.

Built between the years of 1894 and 1895, Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel has served as a pillar of truth, service and a spiritual oasis for students, faculty, staff, alumni, the greater Washington D.C. community and visitors from across the nation and throughout the world for almost 125 years.

The chapel was constructed under the leadership of former Howard University President Jeremiah Rankin. In 1896 the chapel was dedicated and named after Andrew Rankin, President Rankin’s late brother. Rankin’s widow had donated $5,000 to the construction of the chapel.

Throughout its existence, the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel has had four Deans of the Chapel including Dr. Howard Thurman, Dr. Daniel Hill, Dr. Evans Crawford and Dr. Bernard Richardson who currently serves as the Dean of the Chapel. The Chapel is serviced and supported by the Chaplains, Chapel Assistants, the Chapel Ushers, Interfaith Fellows and “Friends of Rankin Chapel.”

In a newsletter to the Howard University community, President Wayne A.I. Frederick shared that an architectural assessment of Rankin chapel took place.  Frederick explained that major monetary contributions are necessary, in order to renovate and repair the historic chapel to the extent that the university wants and needs.

“A significant fundraising effort will be needed to complete this project,” Frederick wrote. “Our desire is to move forward with the renovation and expansion of this national landmark given its central place in Howard University history and those chapters yet to be written.”

Rankin Chapel is a non-denominational chapel that has welcomed prolific people throughout history to the pulpit including Howard’s very first Black President Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, Martin Luther King Jr., Frederick Douglass, Eleanor Roosevelt, Desmond Tutu, Vernon Johns and Mary McLeod Bethune. For over a century, many people have been able to find a spiritual haven in the 90-foot long building that offers an array of worship, ranging from their Jummah Prayer Series to their Sunday Chapel Service.

“As a member of the Howard Gospel Choir, the chapel became my second home,” Samiyah Muhammad, a current student at Howard University shared. “Rehearsals in the Chapel became my place of refuge and release from the stressors of college life, and I am grateful to know I always had a place where I could find peace of mind.”

Their Sunday Speaker Series is one of a kind.  Every Sunday a new sermon is delivered by a different speaker, who range from clergy, to civil leaders, ambassadors and the president of the Howard University himself.

“Andrew Rankin Chapel is the easiest way for me to stay connected not only spiritually, but also politically. Being that every Sunday there is a new speaker and it’s situated in the capital, Rankin creates somewhat of a breeding ground of different forms of Christianity, while bringing in notable speakers with different sets of social beliefs,” said Howard student, Kennedy Jennings.

“The chapel itself feels like nothing short of home, and seeing the families within the community that come out allows for it to be a pivotal part of history by linking us all by experience and spirituality.”

President Frederick also emphasized the importance of Rankin to Howard history and the community at large.

“For more than a century, Rankin Chapel has served as the locus of spirituality for generations of Howard students, faculty and staff and has been a consistent haven for all marking different seasons of life,” he said.  “Within its walls, students have been inspired and provoked to manifest heavenly values here on earth. Sacred vows have been exchanged at the altar to celebrate love and marriage. Generations of families have been comforted in its pews even as they grieved loss.”

Frederick is hopeful for Rankin’s future.

“We look to the future of Rankin Chapel with great anticipation, knowing that a thriving chapel advances a dynamic University and strong community,” the 17th Howard University said. “In the words of Dr. Howard Thurman, ‘community cannot feed for long on itself; it can only flourish where always the boundaries are giving way to the coming of others from beyond them — unknown and undiscovered brothers.’  With open hands and open hearts, we begin to press beyond old boundaries to build an even stronger community in our time with Rankin Chapel leading the way.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro.

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Coca-Cola UNITED ‘Pays It Forward’ With Internships For HBCU Students

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The week-long internship gives students a chance to experience a range of roles available at Coca-Cola, including sales operations, productions, marketing, packaging, pricing, event planning, and philanthropy and community relations.

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From left: Kendarius Youngblood, Talladega College; Zak Thornton, Tuskegee University; Casi Ferguson, United Negro College Fund; Brianna Jones, Miles College; Gabrielle Williams, Stillman College; Pamela Cook, Director of Multicultural Marketing and Community Affairs with Coca-Cola UNITED; Jada Jamison-Belser, Alabama State University; Pablo Vallejo, Stillman College and Bryant Williams, Alabama State University. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)

By Erica Wright

Alabama State University student Bryant Williams, a junior, on Monday said he’s learning a lot during his internship with Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED. And it’s been less than a week.

“I’m learning a lot about Coca-Cola that I never knew and taking away advice from all of the other HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) students and graduates,” said Williams, “I can say that it is of key importance to network and I’m proud of how I got here and how far I’ve come.”

Williams is one of eight HBCU students from around the state part of the 2019 class of Coca-Cola UNITED’s internship program, “Pay It Forward.”

The “Pay It Forward” program, in its fourth year, provides African-American youth with opportunities to celebrate achievements and further their success.

In April, the company reviewed applications for the program through participating HBCUs and selected 25 students. From the Alabama region, the eight chosen were: Williams and Jada Jamison-Belser, Alabama State University; Brianna Jones, Miles College; Gabrielle Williams and Pablo Vallejo, Stillman College; Simone Brown and Kendarius Hale-Youngblood, Talladega College and Zalkari Thornton, Tuskegee University.

The week-long internship gives students a chance to experience a range of roles available at Coca-Cola, including sales operations, productions, marketing, packaging, pricing, event planning, and philanthropy and community relations.

Pam Cook, Director of Multicultural Marketing and Community Affairs at Coca-Cola UNITED, said continuing the legacy of Paying It Forward is “the right thing to do.”

“HBCUs are so much more than halftimes and homecomings,” she said, “the program . . . brings students to our facilities this week and teaches them how to go to work, how to read different statements, how to network, all of the skills that will get you ready for the job market.”

Students began familiarizing themselves with the program during the day Monday and in the evening participated in a meet and greet at Top Golf in downtown with other HBCU graduates and listened to a panel discussion about the importance of “Paying It Forward.”

Bryant Williams said he looks forward to sharing his experiences in the program with others.

“Other students at our schools don’t know, but it’s our job to help each other out as peers so we can all be on the same track and that’s what I have learned today,” he said.

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Gabrielle Williams, a junior at Stillman College, said she also learned a lot from her first day.

“Being here with great HBCU alumni, I’ve learned about empowerment, giving back,” she said. “Being a Stillmanite, we learn a lot about networking, but being here today has just reinforced that to me.”

One of the panelists, Eric Guster, of Guster Law Firm and an Alabama State graduate, said, ASU taught him the confidence to walk into a room and fear no one.

“I spent time in New York where I was doing work for CNN and MSNBC, I knew walking in that room I could handle it and a lot of that came from [the] confidence that I received at my HBCU. You are just as good as or greater than anyone else and that’s the type of confidence you must carry wherever you go. Confidence paired with preparation, you’ll be prepared wherever you go.”

Casi Ferguson, Area Development Director Birmingham, with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and Talladega College graduate, said it’s important to give back, given the history of the institutions.

“You have to understand historic, understand what the ‘H’ means and understand these schools were started with a lot less, having no resources that we have now, but they were started for a very good reason and that is the same reason today,” Ferguson said. “[Giving back] can be $2 or it can be $10 but we should be in a position where we understand that these are our schools and each of you are our students… because we continue to ‘pay it forward’ and build relationships… it is so important to give back. Don’t think you don’t have enough, don’t think there is not enough to give.”

Zillah Fluker, principal with Activate l Elevate, and Alabama State University graduate, said “the greatest thing I took away from my HBCU experience is the need to always remember who I am. That’s what they told me. The other thing they taught me was the idea of a standard of excellence, you may not have everything you need and you certainly won’t have everything you want, but not being excellent is not an option. We always maintained a standard of excellence no matter what we had.”

Panelists also included D’Aundria Foster, Hayah Beauty Stylist and Tuskegee University student; Sylvia Bowen, City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office and Tuskegee University graduate; James Gettys, Birmingham Times Sales Director and graduate of Stillman College; and Deanna “Dee” Reed, Program Coordinator with Woke Vote and a graduate of Miles College.

Also in attendance were Dr. Quinton Ross, president of Alabama State University and Dr. Billy Hawkins, president of Talladega College.

Cook said she is proud of her work and Coca-Cola’s partnership with HBCUs. “I get to be the champion of that for the schools. I know what it’s like to need a class and it isn’t being offered that semester and you’re so close to graduation, I know what it’s like to be away from home… all of those wonderful things that HBCUs provide, that sense of family, all of that is so priceless and it’s an excellent thing to do.”

In addition to the Birmingham and Montgomery markets, the company offers internships in Georgia and Louisiana.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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Birmingham Times

SWAC Bringing Basketball Championship to Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM TIMES — The Southwestern Athletic Conference was in Birmingham Tuesday conducting its football media day, but basketball crept into the conversation with the announcement that the SWAC basketball championship will be in Birmingham.

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Southwestern Athletic Conference Commissioner Charles McClelland talks about a deal to bring the SWAC basketball championship to Birmingham. (Photo by: Solomon Crenshaw Jr. | Alabama NewsCenter

By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.

The Southwestern Athletic Conference was in Birmingham Tuesday conducting its football media day, but basketball crept into the conversation with the announcement that the SWAC basketball championship will be in Birmingham.

Commissioner Charles McClelland said the conference and city of Birmingham have an agreement to play hoops title games in the Magic City the next five years.

“Although the deal has not been signed for basketball, we do have an agreement in principle,” McClelland said at The Westin Birmingham Hotel. “We still have some more hurdles we have to jump, but we’re looking at a five-year commitment to the city of Birmingham.

“We had to value what our worth was,” McClelland continued. “No longer are we going to just go to a city and pay for everything. We want cities to invest in us, and the city of Birmingham has stepped up tremendously.”

Later, the commissioner told Alabama NewsCenter that the league’s aim is for its championships to be a good experience for student athletes. To do that, he said, cities have to be “intricately involved in that process.”

Birmingham filled the bill.

“Birmingham provided us with the best opportunity to have that type support that we need,” he said. “We want to have a first-class basketball tournament. We want to do everything the NCAA does for their tournament. That costs money. That costs a lot of time, a lot of effort. Birmingham has given us those things in order for us to put on a successful tournament.”

McClelland acknowledged that Birmingham is a long distance from SWAC schools in Texas. He said the league recently signed a deal with CityJet to be its travel partner.

“It’s opportunities that we can fly them in,” he said. “It’s an all-collaborative, cohesive process, but Birmingham has been a true partner. They’ve been a strategic partner. When we reached out to them, they came back with a proposal.

“We have to get some T’s crossed and some I’s dotted. The deal isn’t done yet,” McClelland said. “But they are the winner of our bid process, and as soon as we can get the deal done, we’ll be ecstatic and make a formal announcement.”

The commissioner said Legacy Arena at the BJCC is too large for SWAC’s basketball event. He said there are several venues within Birmingham for the league’s consideration.

“We’ll have a team go out and assess what will be the best fit for the Southwestern Athletic Conference,” he said. “Again, it’s a great thought process from Birmingham to be able to have multiple venues to be able to look at and choose from.”

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times.

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