Social Activism on HBCU Campuses: Why We Shouldn’t Wait

With the recent shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, nationwide protests have taken place around the country, and even around the world. Protests in Los Angeles, New York, and even London, gained international coverage as hundreds marched for justice and peace. Hundreds, and in some places thousands, of people turned out to protest what they viewed as unjust killings of African American men.

I monitored all the news of the protests from London, where I was studying at the time. The one place that seemed to be absent from the protests was Lincoln University, my home university. Although I had mixed feelings about the killings, I was saddened that my university, the nation’s first historically black university, was not more vocal about the situations in Ferguson and Long Island. They had released no press releases to the local TV and news stations and there were no protests, at least none to my knowledge.

It saddened me because it’s a reverse from the role that black colleges have played in the past when it came to marching for justice and change. Stokely Carmichael and the SNCC were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement and helped to mobilize college students to fight for equality. But then things slowly began to change.

Protests were even taking place on Lincoln’s campus, long before the Civil Rights movement in the South. In the 1920s and 1930s, a group of college students from Lincoln protested the discrimination at Oxford businesses by staging sit ins. They recognized something wrong with the community they lived in and protested to change it.
But then things began to change. It seemed as if black colleges took a step backward instead of a step forward. Black college students became more complacent in their attitudes about protesting for change; they became more reactive instead of proactive.

However, Lincoln students did protest when former president Jennings made controversial remarks at an all-female convocation. But students shouldn’t just protest when a shooting happens or controversial remarks are made. They need to protest all the time. They need to protest to keep tuition down, to improve their curriculum, or when they feel the university isn’t putting their money to good use.

Granted, if we did this, then we would be protesting all the time. But that’s the point. We, as college students at the nation’s first black college, should always be socially conscious and strive to change what we think is wrong with our colleges, cities, states and the world in which we live. If the need for change and justice stop with the former generation, then we will never change a thing.


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