New Peace and Justice group to launch African Liberation Day May 25

 

m.laminsaidykhan

M. Lamin Saidykha

(TriceEdneyWire.com/GIN) – The former head of Greenpeace Africa took the opportunity of the climate march in Washington last weekend to announce that “Africans Rising for Justice, Peace and Dignity”- a new Africa-wide social movement focused on climate change – will be officially launched on African Liberation Day – May 25.
“It’s a terrible injustice that even though we the people of Africa collectively contributed the least to emissions, we are the ones that are paying the first and most brutal price,” said Kumi Naidoo, adding “we’ve got climate refugees, land that’s drying up, water sources that are disappearing and so on, which is already creating a quite a catastrophic situation.”
“We feel extremely hurt that the countries that carry the biggest responsibility continue to deny their responsibility, but also deny the very fact that the science is absolutely clear that we have to get off dirty energy,” he said in an interview with the news show Democracy Now.
Some 200,000 took part in the DC event, which included spontaneous music and informal speeches. The new group lists “Actions & Events” on their webpage for May 25.
“We chose that day so that we can remind ourselves, our leaders and the world that we are tired of waiting for that liberation to be delivered. And to show them that we are prepared to take action and hold political and business leaders accountable and reinvigorate the journey to that better life for all.”
It continues: “We are one of the youngest continents in terms of our demographic profile but we have some of the oldest leaders. If political leaders were honest with themselves many would acknowledge that they’ve been in power for far too long. They’ve run out of fresh ideas. We need to make way for younger people who have new perspectives on the problems facing the world.
Africans Rising is about deepening solidarity across the continent. We must step up and be the first to speak out against human rights violations.
The group’s coordinator is Muhammed Lamin Saidykhan, a 32-year-old Gambian human rights activist who organized widespread protests leading to the resignation of former Gambian head of state Yahya Jammeh..
The Kilimanjaro Declaration, the movement’s founding charter, the Kilimanjaro Declaration, reads: “Africa is a rich continent. That wealth belongs to all our People, not to a narrow political and economic elite. We need to fight for economic development that is just and embraces social inclusion and environmental care. We have a right to the ‘better life’ our governments have promised.”
For more information, visit the webpage at http://www.africans-rising.org/
GLOBAL INFORMATION NETWORK creates and distributes news and feature articles on current affairs in Africa to media outlets, scholars, students and activists in the U.S. and Canada. Our goal is to introduce important new voices on topics relevant to Americans, to increase the perspectives available to readers in North America and to bring into their view information about global issues that are overlooked or under-reported by mainstream media.


 

House votes to limit powers of first Black Librarian of Congress

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

carlahayden_697_234_web120

 Dr. Carla Hayden

In a vote of 378 to 48, the House passed legislation to take power away from the current Librarian of Congress, Dr. Carla Hayden.
The legislation, H.R. 1695, was authored by House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.), would limit the powers of the librarian. It is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by President Trump.
The bill makes the head of the Copyright Office, the Register of Copyrights, a presidential appointment that would have to be confirmed by the Senate, rather than an appointment by the Librarian of Congress, as it has been since 1870. The bill also limits the position of Register of Copyrights to a ten-year term.
The bill text reads, “This bill amends federal copyright law to require the President, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint a Register of Copyrights from a list of at least three individuals…” and, “The bill limits the term of office for the Register of Copyrights to 10 years, but the individual may be reappointed subject to the same requirements established in this bill. The President may remove the Register of Copyrights from office and must notify both chambers of Congress of any such removal.”
According to the Library Journal, as President Obama considered his choice to fill the Librarian of Congress position in 2015, the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate passed a bill to limit the term of that position to ten years. President Obama signed that bill into law on November 5, 2015. The previous Librarian of Congress, James Billington, served in the position for 28 years.
President Barack Obama appointed Hayden the 14th Librarian of Congress on February 24, 2016. She is the first African American to hold the position, as well as the first woman to be the Librarian of Congress, in the agency’s history. On March 23, legislation was introduced to block Hayden from appointing the next Register of Copyrights. That legislation passed the House on April 26.
Supporters of the bill argued that the legislation would help to modernize the Copyright Office and make it more accountable to Congress. Attempts to contact the office of Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) for details on why he authored H.R. 1695, were not answered.
“This bill serves no purpose other than to take power away from the Librarian of Congress and give it to powerful lobbyists, who will have a major say in who runs the Copyright Office,” wrote Michael Masnick on TechDirt.com on April 26. “It’s a bad bill, and it’s a gift to Hollywood.”
The entertainment industry pushed hard for the passage of H.R. 1695. It’s likely that the selection of the Librarian of Congress will be the focus of attention of the power of the entertainment lobby moving forward now that senators will play a role in confirmation.
The bill to limit Hayden’s power arrives six months after she removed Maria Pallante from the position of Register of Copyrights in October 2016. Many in the entertainment industry were said to be unhappy with Pallante’s removal.
“The Library of Congress, through the Registrar of Copyrights, plays a referee or umpire role in this complex new game; librarians, because they curate and compile content, have traditionally been protectors of copyright and works of authors and artists and balanced public and cultural interests in the free flow and use of that content,” Christopher Chambers, a professor of media studies at Georgetown University told NBC BLK. “Big money is at stake and the industry wants someone, who will see its side, rather than the public interest in what the Constitution says is the ‘promotion of useful Arts.’”
Chambers continued: “It is no secret that the industry lobbies and donates hard, regarding Democrats and Republicans alike. And many of them are African American lawmakers, like Rep. Conyers. This basically surrenders congressional power over intellectual property right there in the Constitution, to the Executive Branch, hence President Trump.” Chambers said that means that President Donald Trump would, in essence, run the Copyright Office.
There were only 13 Congressional Black Caucus members out of 46 voting in the House, who voted to maintain the powers of the Librarian of Congress. Those members were: Reps. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.), G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Don McEachin (D-Va.), Don Payne (D-N.J.), Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Bonnie Watson-Coleman (D-N.J.). All the other voting CBC members favored modifying the position to take power away from the Librarian of Congress.
All the other voting CBC members favored modifying the position to take power away, including Conyers and Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Anthony Brown (D-Md.) who hail from Hayden’s home state of Maryland. According to the United States Census Bureau, Blacks account for more than 30 percent of Maryland’s population.
House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voted against taking power away from the position Carla Hayden now holds.
In a statement after the legislation passed yesterday, House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte wrote, “the Register of Copyrights Selection and Accountability Act is one product of the House Judiciary Committee’s multi-year comprehensive review of our copyright laws.”
The statement continued: “While this legislation represents an important first step in the Committee’s efforts to update our nation’s copyright laws, we remain committed to working with all members and stakeholders to take additional steps to ensure the U.S Copyright Office is modernized so that it functions efficiently and effectively for all Americans.”
From 1993 to 2016, Hayden was CEO of Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, Md. Hayden was also President of the American Library Association from 2003 to 2004.
Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. She appears on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin every Monday. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

Thurgood Marshall’s widow keeps his legacy alive; On Brown v. Board of Education, 63rd anniversary “Cissy” Marshall laments lack of progress

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

Cissy Marshall
CISSYMARSHALL1 Cecilia Marshall, Justice Thurgood Marshall’s widow, keeps his legacy alive. (Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage)

Thurgood Marshall with family.jpgTHURGOODMARSHALL1 Cecilia Marshall (2nd from left) and Justice Thurgood Marshall (right) and their two sons. (Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage)

Cecilia Marshall never imagined that the battle for equal rights in schools and elsewhere would still be as vital today as it was six decades ago when her husband, United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, fought to end legal segregation as a civil rights lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

“We haven’t made too much progress,” said Cecilia Marshall, 88. “Sixty-three years later, we’re still fighting in the courts for equal treatment and that’s not what my husband, nor I would have imagined would be going on today.”

There’s little argument that one of the greatest achievements in the long and illustrious career of the late-Justice Thurgood Marshall, who died in 1993 at the age of 84, was the landmark decision in the 1954 Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education.

According to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in 1940, “Marshall became the key strategist in the effort to end racial segregation, in particular, meticulously challenging Plessy v. Ferguson, the Court-sanctioned legal doctrine that called for ‘separate but equal’ structures for Whites and Blacks.”

The Brown v. Board of Education lawsuit began as five separate cases filed in South Carolina, Delaware, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Kansas. The plaintiffs in all of the cases alleged that the civil rights of their children under the 14th Amendment had been violated.

A biography about Justice Marshall that appears on The Legal Defense Fund’s website said that, “Marshall won a series of court decisions that gradually struck down [‘separate, but equal’], ultimately leading to Brown v. Board of Education, which he argued before the Supreme Court in 1952 and 1953,” finally overturning the doctrine and acknowledging that segregation greatly diminished students’ self-esteem.”

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that separate educational facilities were “inherently unequal” and that racial segregation of public schools violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The Brown v. Board of Education decision came more than a decade before Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court. The decision has been credited with inspiring the Civil Rights Movement that unfolded over the next decade and it also led to Marshall being recognized as one of the most successful lawyers in America.

“He accomplished so much and worked so hard, but I thought by now we would have come so much further. He would have thought that, too,” said Marshall, whom loved ones and others affectionately call “Cissy.”

Her work continues in her husband’s memory. On the 63rd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Marshall and the Thurgood Marshall Center Trust plan to host a fundraising gala to observe the historic decision and to announce a call to action, which she’s titled, “Equal Education for All Based on the Brown Decision.”

The event will be held at the Thurgood Marshall Center for Service and Heritage in Northwest, Washington, D.C. “The problems remain and this event, this anniversary, comes against the backdrop of a significantly troubling retrenchment of access to education for African-Americans, Latinos and other children,” Marshall said.

She cited a Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights report that said there are numerous factors that appear to have combined to cause the rapid re-segregation of schools since 1991, the year her husband retired from the bench.

The courts began turning against desegregation plans in the 1980s—denying new petitions to desegregate schools, ending previous court imposed plans and even striking down voluntary plans created by local school districts, according to the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a diverse collective of more than 200 national civil and human rights groups.

Further, executive branch agencies topped the aggressive campaign to enforce the Brown decision and the Civil Rights Act that proved successful in the 1960s and 1970s, the Leadership Conference reported.

In a statement about the report, the Leadership Conference said that the rapid growth of the Hispanic and African-American populations and growing income disparities have increased the concentration of minorities living in high poverty districts.

Leaders from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and others plan to join Marshall at the historic event to celebrate the life and legacy of Justice Thurgood Marshall. “The NNPA reaffirms the living legacy of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall,” said Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr., the president and CEO of the NNPA. “We note this month the 63rd anniversary of the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision. Marshall utilized his legal genius and courage to win that case.”

Chavis continued: “Today, it’s important to reassert the critical importance of continuing to demand equal, high-quality education for Black American students and all students across the nation.”

Marshall, she said that, she still gathers with the wives of former and current Supreme Court Justices. “We’re a big family, we call ourselves ‘sisters,’” she said.

Those get-togethers, as well as the success of her two sons—Thurgood, Jr., and John W. —serve to further validate her husband’s legacy. “Seeing his sons grow up to become adults—Thurgood, Jr. a lawyer; and John serving in civil service—has been a great joy,” said Marshall. “My husband gave me and all of us a great life and his favorite slogan was something we’ve always lived by and I still live by today, especially when I think of the state of things in this country.” She said that slogan is, “Never give up.”

Months after meeting with HBCU Presidents, Trump still giving mixed messages on Black colleges

By Jane Kennedy
baskerville1
Dr. Lesli Baskerville,CEO National Association for Equal Opportunity

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Repeatedly during his first 100 days, President Donald J. Trump signaled to the leaders and supporters of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that the federal support on which HBCUs depend would remain a priority under his administration.
One sign of hope was an executive order that the president signed in February to move the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the Education Department to the White House, which some believed was an indication that HBCUs would indeed continue to be a priority under the new administration that had been expressed by the President.
But, doubts surfaced just weeks later after dozens of HBCU presidents and leaders met with the President in the Oval Office Feb. 27 for a meeting that was widely panned as little more than a photo op. That same month, Education Secretary Betsey DeVos was heavily criticized for a statement in which she praised HBCUs as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice”.
HBCUs were actually birthed from legalized racial segregation when African-Americans had no choice but to attend Black schools. It was, in part, the aftermath of that statement that caused graduates at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach to boo and turn their backs on DeVos in protest as she began their commencement speech May 10.
Still, the Trump administration has sent yet another troubling message concerning HBCUs, contained in a signing statement connected to a temporary federal spending measure. The statement said, “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account” among other funds, the order said, “My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender…in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.”
This HBCU Capital Financing Program Account, which provides HBCUs with funding at reasonable rates to build new and renovate infrastructure on their aging campuses, was created in 1992 as part of the Higher Education Act passed by Congress. According to Black lawmakers and other HBCU advocates, race is not a criteria and to qualify for the loans the schools must meet standards based on mission, accreditation status and the year an institution was established.
Hours after the White House released the signing statement, Michigan Rep. John Conyers, who is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana) issued a joint response that questioned both Trump’s understanding of the Capital Financing Program and his commitment to HBCUs.
“Trump’s statement is not only misinformed factually, it is not grounded in any serious constitutional analysis,” it read. “For a president who pledged to reach out to African-American and other minorities, this statement is stunningly careless and divisive. We urge him to reconsider immediately.”
Dr. Lezli Baskerville, president/CEO of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), in a lengthy statement noted that HBCUs serve diverse student bodies. “Since their founding, HBCUs have been open to, welcoming and supportive of persons from all races, ethnicities, religions, and both genders except for the gender-specific HBCUs,” she said. “HBCUs enroll roughly 30% of non-African American students. Their faculty is more than 40% non African American. Today 5 HBCUs are more than 50% non-African American. At least one is majority Hispanic serving. One is being shepherded by a white female president.”
If the administration were to withdraw from the program, she added, it would be “devastating to these equal opportunity institutions to whose presidents and chancellors President Trump pledged the largest investments in their history.”
The President has hastened to clarify the signing statement and assuage his critics, stating that the signing statement “does not affect my unwavering support for HBCUs and their critical education missions.” Noting the executive order he signed in February to strengthen their capacity, he said his commitment “remains unchanged.”
On that, Baskerville is willing to give Trump the benefit of doubt and told the Trice Edney News Wire that DeVos’ decision to deliver her first commencement speech at an HBCU “is an important indication that this administration understands the centrality of HBCUs to the realization of many of its priority goals, including its education, workforce, economic stimulus, urban and rural revitalization, and infrastructure development goals.” Baskerville also said that the experience will help DeVos become an “even more potent voice” for HBCUs.
But, Conyers and Richmond aren’t buying it: “Sadly and shamefully, HBCUs, including the schools that President Trump met with, are left to wonder whether he wants to help or hurt them,” they said in the joint statement. “If President Trump really wants to help HBCUs, he’ll implement the proposals the CBC has suggested to him in several letters, including the letter we sent him on April 27, calling for robust funding for a host of programs that support students served by these schools.”

Obama Presidential Center envisioned as economic engine to revitalize Chicago’s South Side

By Frederick H. Lowe
obamapresidentialcenter.jpg

Architect’s drawing of the Obama Presidential Center

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday showed off a model of the Obama Presidential Center, which will honor the nation’s first African-American president as well as help to revitalize neighborhoods on Chicago South Side where the center will call home.
The $500 million, 200,000 square-foot center is scheduled to open in 2021 in Jackson Park, near Lake Michigan, announced the Obama Foundation, which is raising money for the presidential center. The Foundation said it will strengthen its neighborhoods’ economic climate by bringing hundreds and thousands visitors to Chicago every year and creating new jobs on the South Side.
The foundation also hopes the center will revitalize historic Jackson Park.”We believe the center will restore the promise of Jackson Park as the people’s park, building on its history as a recreational destination for gathering on the South Side for families, community members and visitors,” the Obama Foundation said in a statement.
During a presentation yesterday at the South Shore Cultural Center, the Obamas said they are building the presidential center on the South Side to give back to the community, which has given them so much.
The Obama Foundation is working with other institutions in the area, including the DuSable Museum of African-American History, the Museum of Science and Industry, the University of Chicago and the City of Chicago.
The presidential center will consist of three buildings. The multi-story museum, the tallest structure on the site, will serve as a beacon for the Obama Center. The other two structures will be a library and a forum. They will be one-story structures with landscaped roofs that offer views of Jackson Park Lagoon and Lake Michigan.
The campus will be open to the public and the center will include indoor and outdoor spaces for events, trainings and other gatherings. The presidential center will have interactive displays to attract children and adults.
Tod Williams+Billie Tsien Architects partnered with Interactive Design Architects to design the Obama Presidential Center.

Bill to celebrate 400 years of Black History passes House of Representatives

By Lauren Victoria Burke (NNPA Newswire Contributor)
In a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, the United States House of Representatives voted to establish a commission to examine 400 years of African American history.
House bill H.R. 1242 is designed “to develop and carry out activities throughout the United States to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia, in 1619.”
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the House and Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) sponsored the bill in the Senate, where it’s waiting to be passed.
According to Washington insiders, the bill will most likely pass by unanimous consent in the Senate.
Once the bill known as the “400 Years of African-American History Commission Act,” or H.R. 1242 in the House, passes Congress, it will land on President Donald Trump’s desk.
If H.R. 1242 becomes law, the resulting commission would consist of 15 members, who would serve without pay. The legislation would authorize the commission to create grants to communities, nonprofits and other groups to hold events that would commemorate the anniversary of slaves arriving in the U.S. The commission could hire staff and also accept volunteers to perform its mission. The commission would be required to submit a report to Congress and terminate in July of 2020.
In a statement about the bill last year, Kaine said that he’s been lucky to be a part of federal commissions that have been formed to study and celebrate English and Hispanic history. “Well, if English lives matter, if Latino lives matter, then African American lives matter and they’ve mattered every day since the landing of those ‘20 and odd’ African Americans at Point Comfort, Virginia,” said Kaine.
Kaine continued: “The story has a lot of pain to it, but it’s a story that has to be told to commemorate that we as a nation—had it not been for 400 years of African American history—would be absolutely unrecognizable. What we hope to do with this bill is engage in something we should do to tell the story in a different way than it may have been told 50 to 100 years ago.”
In late March, the Congressional Budget Office estimated, “that implementing the bill would cost about $2 million a year—a total of $6 million over the 2018-2021 period.”
In a floor statement about the bill last summer, Rep. Bobby Scott said that African Americans have contributed greatly to the United States and their achievements deserve to be celebrated.
“The history of Virginia and our nation cannot be fully understood without recognizing the role played by the slave trade,” said Scott. “Slavery was an abhorrent institution; but for hundreds of years, it was the foundation of the colonial and early American agricultural system and was essential to its economic sustainability.”
Scott continued: “The 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act will be instrumental in recognizing and highlighting the resilience and contributions of African Americans since 1619. From slavery, to fighting in the Civil War, to working against the oppression of Jim Crow segregation, to the civil rights movement, the rich history of African Americans and their contributions to our Nation began hundreds of years ago but obviously does not end there.”

Lauren Victoria Burke is a speaker, writer and political analyst. She appears on “NewsOne Now” with Roland Martin every Monday. Lauren is also a frequent contributor to the NNPA Newswire and BlackPressUSA.com. Connect with Lauren by email at LBurke007@gmail.com and on Twitter at @LVBurke.

DeVos’ speech at Bethune-Cookman’s commencement sparks protests, outrage

by CHANDELIS R. DUSTER, NBCBLK

170510-betsy-devos-mn-1526_607e0f3521e2928145d67e8ddaf746c8.nbcnews-ux-320-320.jpg
 A group of students stand and turn their backs during a commencement exercise speech by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University. John Raoux / AP

Bethune-Cookman University graduates booed, turned their backs and walked out during Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ 22 minute commencement speech on Wednesday — all in an effort to make it known they didn’t want her, as a representative of the Trump administration, to speak on their special day.
One person was physically removed by police from the Daytona Beach, Florida, auditorium.
“If this behavior continues, your degrees will be mailed to you. Choose which way you want to go,” the school’s president, Edison Jackson, told the graduates.
Play
For a little over a week, students and alumni have protested DeVos’ scheduled appearance as commencement speaker. Her remarks in February that historically black colleges and universities “are real pioneers when it comes to school choice” sparked outrage in the black community. The institutions were founded during the segregation-era when minorities weren’t allowed to attend the same schools as whites.
She walked back those comments, saying, “Providing an alternative option to students denied the right to attend a quality school is the legacy of HBCUs.”
DeVos faced backlash after her appointment of Candice Jackson as deputy assistant secretary in the Office for Civil Rights, someone who once said she was discriminated against for being white. And people expressed anger on social media on Monday after HBCU was spelled “HCBU” in a statement from DeVos on the Education Department’s website, an error that has since been corrected.
On Wednesday, DeVos pressed on with her speech, despite the boos. “I am grateful for the opportunity to speak with you, and particularly with those who have disagreed with the invitation for me to be here,” DeVos said. “One of the hallmarks of higher education, and of democracy, is the ability to converse with and learn from those with whom we disagree.”
“And while we will undoubtedly disagree at times, I hope we can do so respectfully,” she said. “Let’s choose to hear each other out.”
Faculty stood in solidarity behind DeVos as she spoke, and Jackson stood with arms folded and eyebrows furrowed while audience members booed and graduates stood with their backs turned.
The jeers subsided as she spoke to graduates on the importance of following in the footsteps of founder Mary McLeod Bethune, an educator, civil rights activist, founder of the National Council of Negro Women and an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.
Hadiya Bomani, a graduate and member of Delta Sigma Theta who turned her back to DeVos, said the issue is deeper than the commencement speech. “It’s more so the university that we have an issue with at the fact that they brought her to our celebration,” Bomani said. “It wasn’t time for them to make a political decision on our behalf, it was a time to celebrate us.”
However, the boos started up again when DeVos said she would visit Bethune’s grave and “pay her respects.”
Bethune is buried on campus. Her home is also located on campus, which has been designated a national landmark.
“This commencement speaker is an insult to this community,” he said. “This commencement speaker represents everything that is not Bethune-Cookman and has no place here.” Alumna Cris LaNiese said that DeVos doesn’t understand her school’s principles and that allowing her to speak at graduation is “a slap in the face.”
“When we refer to our institution as sacred ground, we really do mean it. Betsy DeVos knows nothing about that,” LaNiese said. “If anything, I’d be surprised if she could separate Dr. Bethune and Harriet Tubman in a picture lineup. She’s not familiar with us.”
On Tuesday, students hand-delivered boxes with more than 60,000 petitions to school administrators demanding that DeVos be removed as commencement speaker. The Florida chapter of the NAACP has called for the resignation of Jackson and university board Chairman Joe Petrock after rumors surfaced that the school would punish students who protested DeVos.
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves. We should, therefore, protest openly everything … that smacks of discrimination or slander,” alumni said, quoting the school’s founder.
“It is disheartening that our alma mater has chosen to invite a speaker who supports policies that serve to harm, not help, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU).”
Jackson defended Devos and said her visit was a good opportunity for the university. “It’s a wonderful experience for our graduates, because how many institutions have a national figure to be their commencement speaker? We’re always about the business of making new friends,” Jackson told reporters before the speech. “If you don’t have friends, it’s very difficult to raise money. Her department controls roughly 80 percent of Title IV money and grants, so why wouldn’t we want to make friends? Is it illogical to talk about making new friends?”
LaNiese sees the administration’s HBCU proposals and DeVos as a farce that Bethune-Cookman school officials are playing into.”We’re being a go-to and those token blacks for this administration. President Jackson keeps saying, ‘This is going to give us a seat at the table.’ From my perspective, it looks like they [the administration] are sitting at the table and we’re serving at the table,” she said.
Follow NBCBLK on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram