HBCU’s – Blacks Don’t Pick Cotton Anymore
Attending my son’s graduation at Florida A&M University
I had an epiphany or an awakening as I watched him
walk to receive his diploma along with the other men and
women that accomplished educational success this day
and at HBCU’s across this nation. The great realization
of Blacks accomplishments in education.
Blacks don’t have to pick cotton, tobacco, potatoes, corn
or other crops like the slaves did during Blacks history as
slaves. I know you’re thinking duh.. this Negro is late, or
this Negro has really bumped his head, but the reality is
too many Blacks are still in a slave mentality and emotional
There are an estimated 36 million Black Americans with the
opportunity during their lives to attend colleges and universities
that support and nurture their cultural and educational growth.
Public education is free compared to other parts of the world
and we make it what we want it to be, despite the challenges
Blacks face every day.
Blacks have educational institutions called HBCU’s –
Historically Black Colleges and Universities, then there are
trade schools, vocational schools, military schools and to be
an entrepreneur, organizations like E3 Business Group of
Northeast Florida, the Urban League, etc, to help Blacks and
people of color with an interest in business as entrepreneurs.
The question that comes to my mind as a parent and an
educator is; why do many Black parents allow Black children
to still be the lowest readers, lowest in math and allow themselves
to be subjected to the prison pipeline?
There is no more cotton to pick, no more fields to work, no
more hogs to tend to, no more chickens to feed and no more
horses to care for. Why are too many Black children and each
generation not better than the last? In states like Mississippi,
Alabama and Georgia, Black people are not doing the planting,
growing or harvesting of crops. This is being done by White and
Latino men and women who drive machines that do the work for
the most part.
As these people do the work millions of Black men of working
age are standing on street corners wasting away. Someone
needs to yell that there are opportunities to grow and the
time for ignorance and apathy is over and to get your butts
in somebody’s school like an HBCU to earn a quality education.
There is no longer an excuse for lack of education unless that
person is happy with being uneducated and ignorant. Looking
at the graduates during commencement and listening to the
stories around me of the struggles that some of these students
and even their families had to overcome, what right do Blacks
have to give up on education?
Who has convinced Black young men that the
corner is more attractive than the classroom? Who has
placed in the heads of young Black woman that it is better to
be pregnant, uneducated and relying on EBT cards and living in
public housing than to own your own home, earn a honest
paycheck and to start their own businesses? Who has convinced
young Black men that education is not necessary and the
streets are more important?
Blacks, as Malcolm X has stated “Catch Hell” so we might as
well catch hell doing something positive like earning an
educational degree to promote cultural growth.
Millions of Black people were brought to America as slaves
to work on plantations, but it would seem that the plantation
mentality in too many Blacks is still there. The prisons of this
nation are filling with Black men and women who are shackled,
chained, and caged like animal or like the slaves of the past.
Looking at the breathtaking site of men and women graduates
that are receiving Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees
I feel proud and humbled to be a Black man with a Black male
child graduating from an HBCU like Florida A&M University.
I’m blessed that I have beat the statistics that said even
though divorced I would leave my children and divorce them,
which I did not. I beat the statistics as a Black man and did
not drop out of high school. I do not have 2 or 3 baby mamas,
I proudly graduated from an HBCU and now teach at a
Title One school, a STEAM school and also Professor at a HBCU.
What better way to give back to my community and I encourage more
Black men to give back.
H. Cruse, Prof. of History Emeritus at the University of Michigan,
and author of The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, stated a
growth of black intellectualism would need a “conscious
community of intellectuals who are committed at an institutional
level to create new lines of communication.” Blacks that are
educated are not as favored and idealized as rappers,
athletes, and entertainers. This has to change for Blacks to
be taken serious. Our young Black boys and girls should know
the Black intellectuals like they know the athletes and entertainers.
Now that Blacks don’t have to pick cotton Blacks need to be
involved in the economics of this nation and world beyond consumers,
they need to be creators. Black need to increase their value of
education and realize that their duty is to honor the slaves
they are descendants of who died on the fields so we can have
opportunities that were denied and even killed for trying to obtain.
The Blacks that helped build the Whitehouse in Washington, D.C
are buried behind the Whitehouse, what irony that there is a Black
President living in the Whitehouse for two terms.
Blacks were of economic value over 400 years ago for their physical
labor; that has changed, economic value now comes in creating
content with STEAM areas – Science Technology Engineering Arts
If Blacks are to be of and continue to be of value in this nation and
the world they must gain as much education despite the obvious
challenges thrown at them to stop from gaining economic,
political, educational parity and equality. What is happening as we
see across this nation in the Black communities, not all, enough
are killing each other, destroying each other, disrespecting each
other and this country is watching and just waiting.
Instead of growing prison cells with Black faces of boys and girls,
men and women there should be more classrooms, more laboratories,
more technology labs, more museums, more libraries, more math
labs and increase robotics exploration and medical / scientific
involvement. There should be more emphasis in churches on
STEM / STEAM / STREAM / CSTEAM.
If Blacks continue on their path of self-destruction what will
this nation do with 36 million Black Americans that have lost
their value to the American economy? I teach all my students this
world rapidly moves towards science, technology, engineering,
arts, math and even medicine (STEAMM),
will there be any Black faces working in there areas?
Look at the diplomas our Black boys and girls are earning, are they
valid diplomas or just “certificates of attendance?” Do these diplomas
validate learning or are they just used to satisfy statistical data to say
“look more Blacks are graduating from our high schools” are these
students ready for the real world and to enter college or are they
educational fodder to make school districts look good? Do parents
know the value of their children’s diplomas?
Too many Blacks who graduate are given diplomas that only qualify
them for low-wage jobs or no jobs at all, street-corner hustling,
re-cycled incarceration and potential violent deaths on the streets.
This is not the fault of the schools, the question is where are the
parents that promote educational growth and success?
Too many Black students get an education that prepares them to only
work in fields that are no longer available and parents are setting their
children up for failure and continued economic slavery if they are
not their children’s first educational role models.
Early education – Pre-K education is vital to start the educational
process, but parents have to be and continue to stay involved
from early childhood to high school. College is too late to worry
about reading comprehension, mathematic abilities, and
special education qualifications. Blacks and people of color need
to re-ignite their passion for education because our world is
based on STEM / STEAM / STREAM / CSTEAM / STREAMM
Graduations like those of Florida A&M University, South Carolina
State University, Cheyney University or even Edward Waters
College are important to Black communities and the cities they are
in. Blacks cannot allow continued failure there are generations of
children at stake.