The Value of The HBCU Experience and The New Black Student Movement (NBSM) – GDN Exclusive

by May 10, 2021

Maya Martin

Maya Martin grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina with family who values education…a lot. She’s a second-generation college student at Fayetteville State University (FSU) and enrolled there through a program, Campus Connection, that her parents chose for her and her twin sister. The mission of the program allowed as many Black students as it could to visit HBCUs across the country. Something there clicked for her. “So, I did more research, prayed about it, and now I’m a Bronco.”

On campus, she serves as Freshman Class President, SGA Liaison, Legislative Committee Chair, member of the student chapter of NAACP, Pre-Law Society, and College Democrats. She says, “I’m an Honors Scholar Association member…and I work hard. I want to do all that I can to better my people, and better myself. My dream is to become the first African American female Governor of North Carolina.”

The freshman sees the Black Community being reclaimed in terms of historical tradition of civic engagement, working together with HBCUs and it is her hope that the tradition be restored with the New Black Student Movement. That also applies to the HBCU community. “There’s a lot of ways we’ve drawn apart as an HBCU community and I hope to bring us back together.”

“As far as the movement, I would like to see Black students everywhere come together and fight against the oppression in the laws that they are trying to put in place to suppress our voices and to suppress our vote, to push back on police brutality and to just get our messages out.”

During her interview with Greater Diversity News (GDN) Maya wants to see the movement be a source of education for a lot of people. “HBCUs educate a lot of first-generation college students and the fact that we are in 2021 and we’re still having a high population of first-generation Black students is something I’d like to see corrected.”

Since college is not an option for everybody but it is something a lot of people would like to experience, it would really help their lives but there’s not a lot of resources in every community. HBCUs can really work to enrich the lives of people in different places and states because you may not have the opportunity to learn about HBCUs to be connected to them.

“And I’d also like there to be a mentorship program. HBCUs historically graduate more Black women than they do men. Black women are among the most educated people in the country. So, I would like Black men also resemble that and be equal to us in that capacity. I want them to also know that there is a lot they can do, that their voices are needed and highlight education everywhere, athletics but also academics…and to help the lives of others. I think the Black student movement should be at the forefront of helping HBCUs shift back to helping the populations that they serve more.”

Predominantly White and Minority Serving Institutions (PWI and MSIs) have Black students that have particular shared institutional actualities that leave them feeling isolated, disconnected, and not supported by the larger Black Community or even HBCUs.  Martin says, “I think there’s a lot of resources that Black students can reach out to with the NBSM. First and foremost is:

  • Connecting the Black students on those campuses. A lot of schools have started Black Student Unions and some branches of NAACP as ways of supporting each other.
  • Some of my friends that attend PWIs say that most black students have to find ways of connecting with one another…whether that be Greek life or some type of organization to find a way, to find each other. So, we can find a way to help facilitate them finding one another.

For instance:

I have a friend that will be attending Chapel Hill (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) in the Fall. And she has been searching for a Black roommate, a roommate of color, somebody where she can have some type of safe haven in her room. So, when she’s doing her hair, people won’t be asking her all type of questions. Or, if she just needs to vent about all the injustices that are happening to us, she can have someone to vent to and not feel like she has to explain to someone why her life matters.  So, I think that’s important. And just outside support from a lot of places because there are a lot of Black people who have attended PWIs and MSIs who are alumni that can reach back into those institutions and help Black students especially if they are a person of color, because Black students are beginning to struggle at a lot of PWIs. They must find their voices, they have to continue to preach about the injustices, and it can be tiring and hard for them at times. So, just that resource can help them.”

In terms of FSU being under the UNC System now, it faces many of the historical challenges that HBCUs across the nation have faced to keep their identities and missions for decades. And Maya’s observations for FSU are important from a student perspective. She also speaks to the recently installed Chancellor’s (Darrell T. Allison) role in that context as well as student conditions and needs.

“I think Chancellor Allison is working with students, listening to our concerns, and trying to answer them to the best of his ability and trying to reach out to us. The UNC System needs to keep its promise. I love all HBCUs and those in the UNC System are amazing. Yet sometimes I feel that there’s a hierarchy of needs for some HBCUs. If FSU continues to show that we are just as good as any UNC System school, and the more we fight for that, then hopefully our issues will be lifted from the UNC System. The most recent issue I can think of is them trying to change our name to UNC – Fayetteville.”

How important is it for the NAACP student chapter at FSU to consider funding initiatives, including raising funds for work study?

Answering that question, Maya says “It’s really, really important. When I think of the NAACP, I think of Black people coming together. If someone else is not going to do it for us, Black people are going to come together and do it for ourselves. So, I think it’s especially important, in this day and time, since HBCUs do not receive the funds we deserve, or that we need, compared to our PWIs and the school systems we’re part of, that the NAACP can really have a hand in providing more scholarships for our students, providing more resources, work study, internships…just different things that could be provided for students.

As for working with the city of Fayetteville NAACP chapter, the student chapter has worked with them in various ways. “We have protests and different things that are going on where we can reach out to them and ask for their support and they are more than willing to offer it to us and I think that is amazing because it shows just how interconnected our chapters are. And no matter where you are, if there’s an NAACP chapter, they are willing to help you out as a student and with the community in general.

When asked what other observations she has about the NBSM and its development, Martin offered, “I guess I will talk more about my family. I grew up with my great grandfather’s diploma on the wall when he graduated from West Charlotte Colored High School. Even my parents. My mother was a first-generation college student, first one in her family after generations who went to Shaw University and then she went to Virginia Commonwealth for her masters. My dad, even though he didn’t attend a traditional university, got his contractor’s license and began working right out of high school and became a horse trainer for many years. So, I just think education is really important. My sister attends North Carolina Central University where she’s a really high achieving scholar. The importance of education is that if you think that you can’t but you can, even though you don’t have family support, you can come to an HBCU and we are your family and we will help you.  I think that’s important for students to realize how important HBCUs are at education. Because if we are not educating ourselves, nobody is going to educate us.”

Maya has a little brother who is a freshman in high school. He’ll be attending an HBCU in four years and the family is excited about that. “Our parents are really pushing for that and the importance of a Black man receiving an education.” And then he’ll already understand the importance of the NBSM from his sister and the rest of the family.

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