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Roland Martin extols virtues of HBCUs at Founders Day breakfast

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by Tiana K. Allen, editor in chief

On Sept. 14, host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now Roland S. Martin spoke as the keynote speaker at Norfolk State’s 2016 Founders Day breakfast. During the breakfast, he touched on the subjects of the importance of HBCUs, black unity and alumni giving back to their alma maters. Martin shared his love for HBCUs although he did not attend one himself.

“You can’t question why we have historically black colleges and universities as if you don’t understand what American history has been since the 1619,” Martin said.

He stressed, as a man of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated, that HBCUs along with black organizations are key to enlightening the black community as well as ensuring that black people can not only get an education, but be successful too. He stated that organizations such as the sororities and fraternities of the Divine Nine are a significant part of black America.

Martin stated that many people do not find HBCUs to be legitimate institutions of higher learning like predominately white institutions. More disappointing is that some members of the black community consider HBCUs to be secondary choices for higher education due to their status of being historically black.

“White supremacy has been so effective that it literally has caused black folks to act as if our own is second class. Many of us are suited and booted with all of our degrees are actually, knowingly in many cases, promoting that as well,” Martin said.

When addressing the issue of legacies being held within predominantly white institutions versus the legacies within HBCUs, Martin stated: “The moment a student steps foot on this campus, it has to be placed in their mind–as if it’s an indoctrination–that no matter what happens, you are always going to support the institution and not just on homecoming week.”

“Imagine what black America would look like if you don’t have a strong NAACP, if you don’t have Divine Nine organizations, if you have a decrease in HBCUs. What do we look like? That is chaos,” Martin said.

He stated that as members of an HBCU and the black community, people should come together and create unity instead of increasing the assumption that the products of the black community are secondary to the rest of the world. Martin made it a point to explain that whatever actions the community of an HBCU does today can and will affect that institution’s future as well as how long it will survive.

He encourages alumni and students to invest in their schools. He pointed out that an endowment from alumni, no matter how small, adds up and will benefit their institutions. When asking Norfolk State’s President and CEO Eddie N. Moore Jr. about what $500 could do for Norfolk State, Moore responded that it could help him keep a student in school.

“Our institutions provide the platforms and the vehicles for us to be able to move forward for the next generation,” Martin said.
He wants current students to consider how they are already reinvesting in their institution and if they are willing to invest in both current and prospective students’ educations. More than that, he encourages all students to make a commitment to Norfolk State to benefit it whether it be with finances, education or enrollment.