Bethune-Cookman Deserves More Than the ‘Blacktivist’ Treatment

Students at Bethune-Cookman University skipped class and held protests today against rumored plans to dismiss the school’s interim president Hubert Grimes. The protest drew widespread attention on social media and attracted Baltimore-based pastor and Morehouse College graduate Jamal Bryant.

So is Bethune-Cookman, with its debts and lawsuits potentially totaling millions of dollars and possible accreditation jeopardy on the brink of becoming the next site for black celebrities and activists to capture fleeting moments of the spotlight?

Like Ferguson, Baltimore and so many other cities which have generated protests in the face of police violence and uneven outcomes in the judicial process, is Daytona Beach the next great site for ‘blacktivists’ seeking a windfall of social currency in the era of Trump?

If it is, then the activists should encourage the students responsibly and thoughtfully. Their skipping class won’t pay BCU’s bills. Their sharing unfounded and incorrect theories about the school losing accreditation because of a presidential firing should be corrected by the adults in the room and on the yard, not egged on or ignored.

If celebrities are going to attach themselves to Bethune-Cookman’s plight, then they should prepare for some obvious questions when they arrive. How much do you really know about Bethune-Cookman’s or any HBCU’s financial troubles, and how much have you done to help the institution prior to rushing down for camera time?

If you are so troubled by issues at Bethune-Cookman, where were you when other HBCUs like Florida A&M University, Southern University, Morehouse College, Howard University, Morgan State University, Saint Augustine’s University, and South Carolina State University were facing similar controversy and corruption in recent years without a surplus of black star power?

Bethune-Cookman needed black star power when students were being shot and killed in a tragic stretch of gun violence years ago. BCU needed celebrity attention when former president Edison Jackson, who is at the center of the school’s current financial crisis, threatened graduates at the university’s 2017 commencement exercises.

And all HBCUs need all kinds of black star power now to convince wealthy associates to give money, to promote black students enrolling at HBCUs, and to help center the schools as economic, social, cultural, and industrial strongholds in black communities nationwide.

Unlike other incidents of black protest in recent years, students aren’t getting arrested in the name of social reform. Unlike Howard University’s A Building takeover, there are no negotiations that will yield what the school probably requires; a clean sweep of the entire board and executive administration.

Black celebrity drop-ins can’t save BCU if the university is in fact doomed. But it can help save some campuses likely to face similar hardship in the years to come if our celebrities are seeking to make HBCUs an advocacy priority.

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