The Crusader Newspaper Group

Education should be “Number One” priority of Black America

By Vernon A. Williams, Gary Crusader

Last weekend, I was part of a reunion of Black graduates. Indiana University is among the top three alumni associations in the nation, in terms of numbers. For a non HBCU, the membership of African Americans in the alumni group ranks near the top.

I saw faces that I hadn’t seen since the mid 70s. Some were incredibly well preserved, looking much like they looked back then. Some clearly transformed into their parents in the years since matriculating in Bloomington, Indiana.

Conspicuous in their absence were those whom we remembered from back in the day who have since transitioned from this earthly field of study – Bill Mays who was my frat advisor when I lived in the Kappa House; Delia McClam who took responsibility for telling me everything I needed to know about I.U. since she arrived a whole year ahead.

You even thought of faculty and staff who made such an impact on so many and the fact that they are no longer part of the celebration – like Dr. Bill Wiggins, Dr. Herman Hudson and David Ross, to name a few.

There were acknowledgements of accomplishments in conversation. And there were some honored at center stage, like recipients of the inaugural installment of Divine Nine Exemplar Awards acknowledging Black Greek-lettered organization alumni who had achieved lofty lifetime goals or given back to their community or society.

Recipients included California Federal Court Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel who became a household name during the campaign of 45.

Bishop Johnny Tunstall of Los Angeles came all the way home to share his transformation from a mischievous college student to a man of God trying to offer direction to others who have strayed.

The Gamma Nu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta brought hundreds of sorors on campus that weekend to celebrate their 70th Anniversary. The tailgate party and dances were fun and the Hoosiers took the highly-regarded Michigan Wolverines to overtime before coming up short.

But through it all, one message resounds loudly with me. Too many children who have the aptitude to succeed at the college level in the Black community may not get the chance. Broken homes, impoverished families, lack of motivation, high school failure and loss of direction are only a part of the problem. Increasing tuition and higher admission standards exacerbate the issue.

And even those who are admitted to colleges and universities from so-called “under represented” communities face an uphill battle with culture shock, lack of preparation and unfamiliarity with campus support systems.

All of us know incredible success stories involving a young collegiate somewhere and that’s fine. They are the exception – not the rule. The only dependable route to breaking the cycle of poverty is education. Those of us fortunate enough to have benefitted can’t rest on our laurels and challenge young people to get it the same way we got it. We had more helping hands than we give credit to and the times today are incomparably more daunting.

When it comes to addressing the need to make sure Black youth education is facilitated, nobody can do it all. But everybody can do something.  Get involved in your alumni group or just give money. Mentor youth or offer internships and job shadowing. Volunteer as a tutor. Get your church to get serious about education. Attend meetings of school boards and legislators. Write your Congressperson.

People get tired of hearing what sounds like worn rhetoric. And some people choose not to hear. But no matter how often its said, it bears repeating until you decide to respond and point to how you’re trying to be a part of the solution. Otherwise, no matter how successful you or your children or your grandchildren may be – you are part of the problem.

CIRCLE CITY CONNECTION by Vernon A. Williams is a series of essays on myriad topics that include social issues, human interest, entertainment and profiles of difference-makers who are forging change in a constantly evolving society. Williams is a 40-year veteran journalist based in Indianapolis, IN – commonly referred to as The Circle City. Send comments or questions to: [email protected].

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