Editorial Roundup: North Carolina

Charlotte Observer/Raleigh News & Observer. June 21, 2022.

Editorial: The Black Lives Matter movement drives a resurgence at NC’s HBCU’s

On this Juneteenth the Black Lives Matter movement can claim a major accomplishment: It has helped to reinvigorate historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Before the nationwide protests triggered by the police killing of George Floyd in May of 2020, many of the nation’s more than 100 such institutions were saddled with debt, losing students and facing possible closure. Now a new awareness of racial inequities and the role of education in bridging those gaps has brought an outpouring of support for colleges focused on Black students, many of them first-generation college students.

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has donated $560 million to 23 public and private HBCUs, states are reversing years of neglect in funding and corporations are eager to contribute to schools that will help them build a diverse workforce.

Congress eliminated $16 billion in debt for HBCUs that had taken federal loans for capital projects.

Legislation introduced by North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) and signed by President Joe Biden has strengthened partnerships between federal agencies and the nation’s Black colleges and universities.

“That whole picture has changed,” said state Sen. Gladys Robinson (D-Greensboro), who heads the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus Foundation.

That change is especially important for North Carolina. The state is home to 11 HBCUs, the largest number in the nation – and the nation’s largest HBCU, North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. The state’s HCBUs have received growing corporate and private donations. Scott alone has gifted $45 million to N.C. A&T, $30 million to Winston-Salem State University and $15 million to Elizabeth City State University.

Fayetteville State University just announced it has received a $5.8 million gift – an amount four times larger than any gift ever given to the school – from Anonymous Trust, a private foundation in Raleigh.

Meanwhile, the legislature has reversed decades of inequitable funding for the state’s five public HCBUs. That’s a remarkable turnaround for Republican lawmakers who in 2014 considered closing Elizabeth City State because of a 26% enrollment decline.

After years of unsuccessfully pressing her fellow lawmakers to do more for HBCUs, Robinson said a breakthrough came after the nationwide protests that followed Floyd’s killing. “The whole Black Lives Matter movement has made a difference,” she said.

Within the UNC System, President Peter Hans has pushed for more support for the state’s public HBCUs.

“HBCUs, in general, are experiencing a long overdue moment of celebration. We have five of the very best in the nation as part of the UNC System,” Hans said. “They’re driving socioeconomic mobility, economic development and expanded opportunity in a supportive environment.”

To boost tuition revenue at HBCUs, the UNC Board of Governors has raised the UNC System’s 18 percent cap for out-of-state students to 25 percent at three HBCUs and 35 percent at N.C. A&T and 50 percent at Elizabeth City State.

N.C. A&T Chancellor Harold Martin said in a statement that the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis triggered a “racial reckoning” that has led to more support for his university and many other HBCUs.

“We fervently hope that what we have experienced these past two years is the new normal, rather than a temporal, fleeting moment,” he said. “Those changes, properly nourished, can help unlock the full potential of our universities to better serve our students, our communities, this state and the nation.”

Winston-Salem Journal. June 16, 2022.

Editorial: A weekend of celebrations

Nearly 4,000 people attended last year’s Juneteenth Festival in Winston-Salem’s Bailey Park in the Innovation Quarter. And that was while we were still reeling in the height of the pandemic.

Fortunately, the festival was livestreamed as well.

It was also the first year that Juneteenth was celebrated as a federal holiday — declared so only two days before the official holiday date — June 19 — by Congress and signed into law by President Biden.

The next day, in a written proclamation, he said:

On June 19, 1865 — nearly nine decades after our Nation’s founding, and more than 2 years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation — enslaved Americans in Galveston, Texas, finally received word that they were free from bondage. As those who were formerly enslaved were recognized for the first time as citizens, Black Americans came to commemorate Juneteenth with celebrations across the country, building new lives and a new tradition that we honor today. In its celebration of freedom, Juneteenth is a day that should be recognized by all Americans.

Juneteenth is a day of profound weight and power. A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country — what I’ve long called America’s original sin. A long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity.

But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.

And it’s celebrated in June rather than April, when the Civil War ended, because it took that long after Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender before enslaved people were even told that they had been freed.

Those themes — darkness and hope — are likely to resonate with millions of Americans for a variety of reasons. We’d like to see everyone concentrate on the second — hope — as they venture forth this weekend. It’s hope we need to get us through the tough times — and hope fulfilled that provides relief.

This year’s Juneteenth celebration is officially on Sunday. We mark it a couple of days ahead of time because the celebration has already begun in Winston-Salem and will continue all weekend long.

A reception was held last night for an art exhibition, “The Wellness Keepers,” at the Milton Rhodes Center for the Arts, a partnership between Triad Cultural Arts and Arts Council of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County. It celebrates Black health care professionals of past and present through art, photography and their narratives. The exhibition will continue to be on display through July.

A Queen Juneteenth Scholarship Pageant will be held this evening at Paisley IB Magnet School.

The Juneteenth Festival — “celebrating freedom and the will to be free” — will return to Bailey Park from 1 to 8 p.m. Saturday, featuring music, dance, food, panel discussions, arts and crafts.

Displays and exhibits will be featured inside nearby Biotech Place between 1 and 5 p.m.

A Juneteenth Celebration featuring gospel music will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday at Tanglewood Park, co-sponsored by Forsyth County and the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

The Pride Winston-Salem Festival and parade returns to downtown this weekend also, after a two-year absence, the Journal’s Fran Daniel reported in Thursday’s Relish. It begins with a kick-off party this evening at Willow’s Bistro and continues with the Food Truck Rodeo at 10 a.m. Saturday and the Pride Parade at 11 a.m.

It’s appropriate that these events be held on the same weekend — they both represent communities that have historically been oppressed, persecuted and isolated from the Constitution’s promise of liberty and justice for all. There’s still a great deal of work to be done before our society fulfills that promise — and some seem bound and determined today to prove that promise null — but the fact that people can celebrate their lives more openly reveals that progress has been made, also.

The rest of us, allies in the fight for equality, have opportunities to express our support this weekend, also.

Don’t forget the heat and the continued threat of COVID. Take precautions.

But do celebrate.