The Black Middle Class is Creating New Cities. HBCUs Should Be the Anchors for the New Migration.

Last week, the Christian Science Monitor profiled the town of Stonecrest, GA., a recently incorporated city with a predominantly black residential composition and a world of potential for its economic future. The city is an offshoot of ‘Black Flight’ from the rising costs and urban sprawl of cities like Atlanta.

Stonecrest is part of an increasing number of cities cropping up around the country with African Americans and other ethnic minority groups seeking more socioeconomic autonomy.

From the Monitor:

Between 1990 and 2010, 44 majority-minority cities sprang into existence across the US, including the transformation of colonias in Texas, the creation of Asian-majority cities in California, and a new Native American city in Oklahoma that incorporated largely to focus more resources on a rampant drug problem.

Emerging evidence shows that majority-minority cities such as Stonecrest “can control their own destiny,” says Leora Waldner, public administration professor at Troy University in Alpharetta, Ga., who tracked these new cities and found them nearly universally successful. “They have a seat at the bargaining table for regional issues, they protect themselves from undesirable land uses, and they can and do take on environmental [and social] justice initiatives.”

She adds: “Black or brown communities creating their own cities from unincorporated areas – that can be a potent civil rights tool.”

But what does this movement mean for historically black colleges in states like Georgia and other rural areas where undeveloped land may be plentiful, but buy-in from corporations and high-earning black folks is slow?

Civic Autonomy in Action

Albany State University and the Putnam County Charter School System recently wrapped the inaugural edition of their joint college preparatory summer camp program. The initiative welcomed 45 students to the ASU campus to learn about applying for college and entry exams, financial aid, career selection and professional and personal development.

It’s the kind of partnership that is becoming more frequent as colleges look to build pipelines with secondary school districts, to help in stabilizing enrollment and workforce development. Companies are willing to finance pathways from ninth grade through college graduation, if it helps to create a skilled motivated worker.

And few areas in Georgia could use it more. Black folks represent 44% of Putnam County’s population living below the poverty line but only 26% of its total population. The likeliest places where residents will land a job are on a college campus, at a manufacturing company or in a retail business.

What if Stonecrest, Stockbridge and other all-black community experiments pushed a little further out to HBCUs, particularly those facing downturns in population and commercial development? Memphis, Montgomery, AL and Atlanta remain the three top cities for new black entrepreneurship, and the cities where African Americans are faring well economically, HBCUs are among the largest employers and cultural centers.

But to save the most vulnerable of institutions in the most remote of locations, it may require for black folks to look at institutional anchors as the key to springing up new cities and towns. What Albany State is doing in its region, Central State University is doing in Wilberforce, OH and Xenia; working to create new and stronger industries that pair well with their academic offerings and the future of work in the state.

CSU is the second HBCU, following Southern University, to create a stake in the marijuana research and development industry, and was announced last week as one of two institutions in the state approved to operate a marijuana testing lab.

HBCUs power secondary education, health and social science transfer, political influence and criminal justice stability for predominantly black communities. Building around these schools, seemingly, would expedite the efforts of African Americans seeking to shape their own civic destinies. Its just a matter of which groups of black folks, particularly HBCU alumni, are willing to take the bold step of coming home to build around alma mater.

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