Rev. William Barber — Historically Black, Authentically American

The pride of North Carolina Central lends the historically black sermonic tradition to the fight for the White House.

When the nation least expects it, there emerges to the fore a prophetic voice whose unmistakable cadence waited on the long lines of less-than completely efficient registration processes, attended dollar hollers in hot gymnasiums, wanted desperately to join a black Greek-lettered fraternity or sorority, hated to attend mandatory chapel services, had a professor go off on them, and felt caged-in by the black respectability standards of administrators and policies home grown at historically black colleges and universities.

And more often than not, a beautiful black voice like this is sharpened in the discourse and disobedience spurred by early engagement with administration at these schools.

Last night, that voice, the voice that shocked the nation’s heart was North Carolina Central University graduate the Reverend William Barber II. His black sermonic voice is beyond compare. It is a voice he learned at his father’s feet and in an HBCU seat.

He is a reminder of everything that is good, right and necessary about the continued mission and vision of HBCUs — and of why we must continue to fight for them.

Because no matter what anyone says, it was not the voices of predominately and traditionally-white college graduates — Ivy Leaguers First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama, and democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton — who resuscitated the heart of the American nation.

That recognition goes to Barber.

When detractors rhetorically ask if historically black colleges and universities are relevant they suppose you will answer, “Yes.”

But the next time they do, surprise them by asking: “Do you enjoy American democracy?” Because the black schoolhouse has, for almost 200 years, been pushing, prodding, and pulling America to higher ground — to fulfill its espoused creeds of equality, liberty, and justice.

This is why HBCUs matter. They always have, and with God’s help, they always will.