Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have had a long tradition of pursuing and encouraging excellence. Howard University in Washington, D.C. is considered by many to be the flagship of HBCUs. It one of the leading institutions of higher education in United States with a global brand of high achievement and historic contributions to the empowerment of Black America and to all who strive for human progress.
I am a proud graduate of Howard University and a strong proponent of the evolution of hip-hop culture and entrepreneurship. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that Interim President Wayne A. I. Frederick selected Sean John "P. Diddy" Combs to deliver the 2014 commencement keynote address. This is another example of President Frederick, a well-respected faculty member and an accomplished scholar, providing Howard University with effective leadership during a period that the university is searching for a new president.
As soon as President Frederick made the announcement that Sean Combs would be the commencement speaker, there was an immediate outcry by those who felt that Combs, who dropped out of Howard before graduating, was an inappropriate choice. I beg to differ. A true education is not strictly defined by whether one graduates from college.
First, I am not surprised that the MATA administration is proposing an elimination of all game shuttles to the Liberty Bowl and FedEx Forum. In the dark shadow of a failed vote on a gas tax referendum for MATA, cuts in government funding and a lower ridership, I am just grateful that MATA is still surviving on her deathbed for those who are transit dependents. There is no doubt in my mind that the fact MATA is still breathing is an example of miracles.
As a sports fan, I join other sports fans who believe that providing bus shuttles to the Liberty Bowl and FedEx Forum is a valuable service to the city of Memphis. At the same time, as a longtime advocate for bus riders, I know that public transportation is so bad that transit dependent riders are spending up to four hours on buses on a daily basis as a result of tough economic times at MATA. Some are being forced to walk blocks to and from their destinations because there is little or no bus service in their neighborhoods or at their destinations.
In an effort to be fair to the regular bus riders and the sport fans, I believe that the MATA Board should not cast a "Yea " or "Nay" on eliminating bus shuttles or changes in bus service while budget talks are about to take place with the Memphis City Council at City Hall. I believe that any considerations of any proposals of MATA should be delayed until the end of June.
When we hear about the importance of multicultural toys, it's often in the context of giving black girls dolls that look like them to support their healthy self-image. While this is no doubt important, I wonder why we don't do more to encourage white girls to play with diverse dolls, too.
Let me explain.
As a little girl, I was the ultimate Barbie fanatic. I had at least 20 dolls; a big pink, plastic home for them; several cars; multiple Kens; and all the family members and special editions. But my favorite playtime adventures involved Barbie and her friend Christie, who, like me, was black.
When I grew up I had an Uncle by the name of Bay Banks. He could sing and dance very well and talk as slick as ice in the shade of your driveway. Only problem was that he tended to do all of these things at the most inappropriate times.
He'd sing blues songs while my mom tried to talk to him about the Lord. He'd dance in the middle of traffic and talk slick to police officers or the neighborhood dope boys who wanted their money immediately or him in a hospital.
We loved Uncle Bay and he was great entertainment to us. As kids, it was hilarious to see a 40-year-old man dancing in the middle of the street in his underwear without any music, but it was awfully embarrassing to my mother. She simply wanted to hide this Jheri-curl wearing, hot-pistol toting, Soul Train-looking, 5-foot-9, 140-pound drunk distraction somewhere in the very back of our home.
As we approach May 17, the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown v. Board of Education landmark decision outlawing "separate but equal" schools, several studies show that our schools are more segregated now than they were three decades ago. And there are no indications that things are likely to change for the better in the foreseeable future.
A report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) titled, "Brown v. Board at 60," concluded, "Today, things are getting worse. The typical black student now attends a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students are white, down from 36 percent in 1980."
Actually there were two Brown decisions. The first, in 1954, outlawed racially segregated public schools, which had been defended as "separate but equal." Faced with foot-dragging by intransigent school officials in the Deep South, the Supreme Court issued a second ruling in 1955, sometimes called Brown II, declaring that the schools had to be desegregated "with all deliberate speed."
In what should be considered standing logic on its end, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this week that while public colleges have an interest in having a racially diverse student body, nonetheless, the racial majority of a state can vote to remove racial diversity as a goal. This is a radical and activist reinterpretation of the Constitution, since by strict construction, the 14th Amendment had been added to explicitly limit white majority action to deny full legal protection to the newly freed slaves and their descendants. The purpose was to limit majority rule from becoming mob rule, continuing a legacy of inequality.
Most disturbing, this ruling comes as our nation's need for success in having a diverse skilled workforce is increasing. The majority of babies born this year are children of color. A part of the reason our nation's middle class is seeing other countries incomes catch up to them is because the education advantage of Americans is shrinking. To keep pace, America must find ways to educate all its children.
Earlier this month, high school seniors received letters accepting or rejecting them from their dream schools. The selective institutions now receive thousands of applications for each available slot. The University of Michigan (the school at the heart of the Supreme Court case) received nearly 40,000 applicants and accepted about 16,000. Last year, the difference between the average SAT section score of the 2014 freshman class and those who were rejected was 672 compared to 642.
Clearly, many of those rejected differed little from those accepted; there are more qualified applicants than slots. So, the challenge for schools like Michigan is in putting together a class among virtually equal applicants.
Evidently it's the "list" time of year, and so far black girls are winning. On Tuesday, People magazine debuted its 50 Most Beautiful issue, starring none other than media (and fan) darling Lupita Nyong'o on the cover. Not to be outdone, Thursday morning, Time released its annual 100 Most Influential People issue, featuring singer Beyoncé on its cover. Nyong'o's issue went over pretty well (at least in my circles). Beyoncé's, though? Um ... not so much.
In her Time bio, 'Yoncé is lauded by "Lean In" author and Facebook honcho Sheryl Sandberg, who effusively praises the singer-actress-performer turned wife-mother-feminist. Sandberg makes a brief but solid argument that plays off Sandberg's lean-in catchphrase: "Beyoncé doesn't just sit at the table. She builds a better one."
Sandberg describes how Bey's last album – the self-titled audiovisual gem she dropped with zero notice or promotion last December – "shattered music industry rules and sales records." (That's not just fan hype. Beyoncé holds the record for fastest-selling album in iTunes history and has sold more than 3 million copies.) Sandberg goes on to mention Bey's sold-out world tour and notes the singer's (somewhat shaky) track record of raising "her voice both on- and offstage to urge women to be independent and lead." (Admittedly, she's getting better.)