A bipartisan group of Democratic and Republican legislators recently introduced a bill to provide funding for the long-term improvement of HBCUs. The Institutional Grants for New Infrastructure, Technology, and Education (IGNITE) for HBCU Excellence Act grew out of a June 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) that identified “extensive and diverse” capital project needs at various HBCU campuses. As stated in the GAO report, “HBCUs continue to face challenges in securing financing to undertake needed capital projects” and “these colleges may be unable to make the campus improvements necessary to attract and retain students, potentially jeopardizing their long-term sustainability.”

“For over 150 years, HBCUs have been agents of equity, access and excellence in education, despite being ignored and marginalized by federal and state governments,’ said Democratic North Carolina Rep. Alma Adams, one of the lead sponsors of the bill. “This historic bipartisan bill changes that.”

Improvements targeted under the bill include facility renovations, repair and construction, aalong with the purchase of needed equipment. Preservation of historic buildings is also included as a priority under the bill. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, a number of HBCUs lack the adequate resources needed to complete necessary maintenance on these historically significant structures.

Alma, who founded the HBCU Congressional Conference, issued a joint statement with Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott about the IGNITE bill. “We believe that our bill represents that kind of opportunity for both our Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the American people. The IGNITE HBCU Excellence Act will be one of the most transformative pieces of legislation for Historically Black Colleges and Universities in history.”

When speaking about the bill, Adams recalled her four decades of instructing the women of Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. She talked about the challenges of teaching in a building that did not have air conditioning. Alma explained that this is still the reality for too many teachers and students at HBCUs. “That’s not unique to any one of our institutions. It’s something that we see on many of the campuses… We need to get that investment in there to make sure that we can continue to produce our nation’s leaders.”

HBCUs are essential to the advancement of our people, and we are excited to follow along the progression of this bill.

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Category: HBCU News

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones has been at the center of some “good trouble” lately. After much controversy and public debate, the award-winning journalist turned down a long-awaited offer for tenure at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill journalism school. Instead, she announced that she will be the inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at Howard University.

“Instead of fighting to prove I belong at an institution that until 1955 prohibited Black Americans from attending, I am instead going to work in the legacy of a university not built by the enslaved but for those who once were,” she said in a statement.

Hannah-Jones initially accepted the UNC journalism school’s tenure offer. After successfully completing a rigorous tenure process, everything came to a halt. Her tenure was held up for months, with the UNC board of trustees refusing to vote twice, in November and January.

At the center of the controversy was Hannah-Jones’ Pulitzer Prize winning work with the New York Times on “The 1619 Project.” The project takes a critical look into the role of slavery in the birth of the United States and has amassed a number of critics. Though UNC never made an official statement to explain their delay, various reports named conflict around “The 1619 Project” and disapproval from politically conservative trustees as the reasons.

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Nicole Hannah-Jones  portrait  after winning MacArthur grant(Credit: James Estrin/ The New York Times)30212179A

“I think it showed that there was not a respect for what Black faculty go through on campus. We know that the University of North Carolina lost some recruits over this, other Black faculty are considering leaving the university,” she told interviewers. “If they were able to do this to me — I work at the New York Times. I have a huge megaphone. I have a huge platform — what do they think they could get away with when it came to lesser-known scholars?”

Following weeks of public outrage and threats of student protests, the board of trustees finally voted and approved Hannah-Jones’ tenure in a split vote – an offer she refused. “I hope that other universities who might find it easy to point at the board of trustees in North Carolina and say, ‘They’re just backwards,’ will do some real, internal introspection on the way that they are also blocking so many other talented Black faculty who dedicated their life to academia.”

HBCUs are not only essential for Black students but Black academics as well. The Ivy Times is thrilled to watch Nikole begin her tenure as the Inaugural Knight Chair in Race and Reporting at the Mecca.

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Category: HBCU News

Howard University recently named award-winning TV, stage and film actress and director Phylicia Rashad as dean of its College of Fine Arts. Rashad was a theater acting major at Howard, where she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. She graduated magna cum laude in 1970 with a bachelor’s in fine arts.

This exciting announcement also marks the return of Howard’s College of Fine Arts as an independent school within the university. Howard merged the College of Fine Arts within its College of Arts and Sciences in 1998, which upset many of the university’s performing and visual art students, faculty and alumni.

“The discipline and study of fine arts are not understood,” explained Rashad. “They are undervalued. And that happens so much around the world. People imagine musicians, designers and actors just wake up and do what we do. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The discipline of fine arts was like training for the military.”

Before perfecting her role as Clair Huxtable on the 1980s “The Cosby Show,” Rashad began her career on Broadway. Since then, she has successfully returned to the stage for numerous performances. She is the first Black actress to win the Tony for Best Actress, an award she received in 2004 for her performance as Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun by playwright Lorraine Hansberry.

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Phylicia Rashad (Photo by Deborah Feingold/Corbis via Getty Images)

Rashad’s ties to Howard University run deep. Her sister, award-winning dancer, choreographer, actor and director Debbie Allen graduated from Howard in 1971. Her father, Andrew Arthur Allen, graduated from Howard’s College of Dentistry in 1945.

Excited about her return to the university, Rashad said that she would like to see the fine arts program blossom. “I would love to see us be a premiere program at the university. I would like to see the College of Fine Arts not only re-established, but see it exulted.” Howard University recently announced on May 26th that they would be renaming the College of Fine Arts the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts to honor their iconic alumnus Chadwick A. Boseman.

Agreeing to a three-year contract, she will reportedly move to Washington DC while also commuting between New York and Los Angeles for theatrical and television work. Her role as dean begins on July 1st.

Howard reportedly had 307 students enrolled in its fine arts program this spring. It’s impressive list of alumni include such acclaimed performers as Taraji P. Henson, Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway and Ossie Davis.

We are incredibly excited for Phylicia Rashad to return to her roots and begin her journey as Dean of Howard’s College of Fine Arts!

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