Giving back to our HBCUs

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Recently, we have seen a rise of individual Blacks, Black owned companies, and foundations donating millions of dollars to our HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). These Blacks honoring our HBCUs are to be held in high esteem for recognizing the significant and importance these HBCUs play in our nation and the world.  Too often HBCUs have been seen as taking a back seat to PWIs (Predominately White Institutions), undermining their contributions and achievements in making this a better world.

The rising contributing wealth provided by donations by African Americans, businesses and foundations is making a welcomed difference in the continuation of these HBCUs. Every genre (whether it be in education, business, medicine, science, health care, music, entertainment, sports or music) has been uplifted with the talent pool from HBCUs.

The tactic or ploy by what many see as a racist and suppressive system to downplay or undermine HBCUs as irrelevant and inferior to their White counterparts, doesn’t carry water when presented with the facts.  The only advantage PWIs have over HBCUs is a history of documented funding allowing them more money for housing, infrastructure, programs, and scholarships at the expense of underfunding HBCUs.

Many powerhouse PWIs can boast of financially affluent White alumni and top corporations and businesses donating to their universities. Many of these families and businesses can afford generously giving back to their universities because of acquired generational wealth that originated from the backs of enslaved Blacks—but that is another story.

There have been some White billionaire contributors to HBCUs that warrant recognition. Mackenzie Scott, the former wife of Amazon Founder Jeff Benzos, has given $400 million plus to HBCUs. Netflix founder/CEO Reed Hastings and wife Patty Quillen have donated $120 million to the United Negro College Fund, while former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged $100 million to the four historically Black medical schools. 

The good news is that while HBCUs have a lot of work to do to obtained endowments equally close to some prestigious PWIs, progress is being made with incoming wealthy Blacks rising to the plate. Black alumni of HBCUs are recognizing the importance of giving back as much as possible to sustain the legacy and the greatness produced from these prominent institutions.

You would be proud to know of the rising number of prominent well-known Blacks and professionals making donations to HBCUs. Black philanthropists, businesses, celebrities, pro athletes, supporters and alumni of these HBCUs are coming aboard, making a significant difference in highlighting the importance and relevancy of HBCUs in their generous gifts and donations.

Many of the generous Black donners include noted actor Denzel Washington; basketball star Chris Paul; former basketball player and coach George Lynch; radio talk show host Charlemagne the God; film director Spike Lee; actor Terrence J Jenkin; basketball player Rob Covington; baller James Harden; rapper Travis Scott—and the list goes on and on.

Other Black billionaire HBCU donors would include Oprah Winfrey ($2 million to TSU and at least $25 million alone to Atlanta based HBCUs); Robert Smith ($34 million to Morehouse, retiring the debt of the class of 2020 graduates); Black billionaires Ronda Stryker and husband William Johnston donated $100 million to Spellman College in Atlanta, the largest single donation given to a single HBCU.

HBCUs are finally receiving the long overdue funding necessary to give them monies to continue funding scholarships, improve infrastructure, expand programs, and increase their endowments making them more equal and equitable when comparing them to their White counterparts. A special thanks goes out to the many wealthy African Americans who financially support HBCUs, leaving their legacies of excellent.

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