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Pushing Past Today, Preparing for a Better Tomorrow

Texas’ HBCU staff acknowledges the issues that plague the nation but remain hopeful as they commit to political action while encouraging HBCU students to do the same.

Staff members at Texas HBCUs are optimistic as they help prepare and encourage the next generation of voters. That’s why Dexter Evans, Executive Director for the Center of Civic Engagement, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership at Paul Quinn College, and other faculty are doing all they can to encourage students to vote.

Evans wants to instill a sense of power into HBCU students in hopes that it will inspire them to be active participants in the voting process. “We are pressing every way that we can for student and community engagement in what are some of the most important times in American history,” Evans said.

Evans also identified the coronavirus pandemic as one of the foremost concerns he considers when evaluating the presidential candidates. He described the issue as especially prevalent, considering the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Texas.

“One of the most significant issues in this election is COVID-19,” Evans said. “The pandemic has hit us harder than we ever could imagine and the only politicians, or people that are running for office, that are even viable are the ones who are backing science.”

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas currently has 765,894 cases making it the second-highest in the nation as of Oct. 5. Glendora Carter, chemistry professor at Jarvis Christian College, emphasized the need for an administration that will rely on science in the fight to control its spread.

“We just have to follow science. COVID-19 is a real strong beast,” she said. “When the [next] president comes, he has to hit the ground running because we have an essential crisis he can’t delay on making any kind of decisions.”

Another virus of sorts—that of racism and social injustice—also plagued the nation as protests rage in response to rampant and unchecked police violence, Carter says. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the state spurred a movement, once again, against racism, social injustice and police brutality.

Many call for the repurposing of funds otherwise earmarked for local law enforcement. “It’s just overwhelming that the killing of Blacks is so prevalent,” Carter said.

Michon Benson-Marsh, an English professor at Texas Southern University, says the prevalence of injustice against Black Americans proves that politicians fail to prioritize their lives.

Benson-Marsh noted that racism in America can be attributed to the lack of cultural awareness, and she believes promoting multicultural education in public schools may help cure racial prejudice. “Racism is thriving in American society. No amount of legislation is going to curb that impulse so where we begin is with education,” Benson-Marsh said. “Our students’ exposure to multicultural education, particularly to African-American history and literature is an art. It’s one way that we can change the narrative in our children’s minds about who Black people are.”

President Donald Trump recently announced his “Platinum Plan” which promises higher standards of policing, economic prosperity for Black people and

recognizing Juneteenth as a national holiday.

Benson-Marsh sees the plan as degrading and ineffective for Black Americans. Like others, she fears that such plans are only to potentially secure the Black vote on Nov. 3. “Right now there is this pointed attention to Black Americans,” said Benson-Marsh. “All of [Trump’s] plans, as do Biden’s I will say, sound good on the surface but they don’t necessarily promote long-term solutions to historical problems of disenfranchisement and inequity.”

Both President Trump and the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, have highlighted HBCUs in their campaigns. Evans, however, is looking for support and funding that goes beyond the 2020 election season.

“Our candidates need to take into consideration all that has occurred over the past 100, almost 200 years of systematic oppression and resistance when it comes to funding and supporting historically black colleges; moreover, black and brown communities in general,” Evans said.

The legacy of HBCUs is dependent on the resources and funding given to each institution, Benson-Marsh said, which is why federal funding is imperative. “More funding has to be available for HBCUs,” Benson-Marsh said. “We need to move forward. Our history dictates that we have served a community that has been historically underserved, so we need to continue in that vein.”

Carter emphasized the need for funding at HBCUsfor various research programs and activities. The U.S. Department of Education routinely provides grants via Title III to help institutions of higher education serve low-income students.

“It’s important that we get the [federal] funding,” she said, adding that it would need to be allocated properly.

Preparing for the highly-anticipated election season, Carter said she and other staff members at Jarvis Christian College remain adamant in encouraging students to become civically engaged. “This particular election, we don’t want to sit back,” Carter said. “We have a vast majority of students who can really go and make a difference, we just have to inform them of how important their vote is.”

Next: For those who haven’t cast their ballot yet, here are tips as you make your plan to vote. For those who haven’t, here are tips as you make your plan to vote.