Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Is Paul Quinn College Really Worth Saving?

Paul Quinn College's loss of accreditation, is for many, a death knell for the school. For some it is an opportunity to review whether or not the commitment of Dallas to support the presence of a historically black college is real. But, at the end of the day, it is not really Dallas per se, that must prove its commitment, as much as it is African-Americans who live in Dallas. To be honest, if its not important to us, then it shouldn't be here.

Michael Sorrell, who for the past two years has an extremely impressive job of leading the troubled school, now needs the help of alumni and black Dallasites to rally to support Paul Quinn. Dallas area pastors Frederick Haynes of Friendship West Baptist Church, Denny Davis of St. John Baptist Church in Grand Prairie and Kerry Wesley of Antioch Fellowship Baptist Church, are among those who have, annually, for years, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and more in other fundraisers to sustain Paul Quinn. Ironically, all are alumni of Bishop College. Bishop, also the school I attended, suffered the fate which Paul Quinn currently endures and eventually closed in 1988.

Mike Hashimoto of the Dallas Morning News asked a very important question regarding this school's existence - 'Why?'. Why should the school exist and in light of the challenges it currently faces, why should it continue. While there are those who seek to highlight a significance that has yet to materialize and those who speak of Paul Quinn as an asset that is only now understood as it lies on virtual life support, Mike is right in that no one has answered that question: 'Why should Paul Quinn be saved?'

If I can attempt an answer: we ought to save it because as black people, we cannot claim to love our history and not prepare for our future. To attempt to do so is to let down those heroes and heroins, both black and white, who built these institutions and handed them to us as a sacred trust.

I'm thinking about the people, like the woman Booker T. Washington mentions in his autobiography 'Up From Slavery'.

As Washington crossed the country raising money to build Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, an old woman, an ex-slave, approached him. In broken English she said, 'I kno's who you is! You's that man goin 'round tryin' to raise money to eddicate these boys and gurls. Now I ain't got no money. All I's got is these six hen eggs. But you take these hen eggs and you build that collitch and eddicate them chillun.'

We let that old woman down in 1988 when Bishop College closed.

We'll let her down again if we allow Paul Quinn College to fail.


Anonymous said...

As a black man myself, I have never understood why we have fought and preserved for first integration and then civil rights, and yet we want separate cultural institutions. The black college has been, at best, a place for a second rate education, and one that puts the young black graduate at a disadvantage in the workplace. If we need to protect our cultural heritage, make a museum out of the campus. The students would be better served in a main stream institution of higher learning.

Rev A. Nonymous

Gerald Britt said...

On one hand, I understand what you are saying. But I have a different take on it.

Relative to Civil Rights and the struggles of that movement, the fight was really for 'desegregation' vs. integration. The idea were for the humiliating and dehumanizing barriers that prevented access and opportunity to be removed from all areas of life.

The unintended consequence of that fight was an 'integration' which destroyed or severly weakened communal life and some of our strongest institutions - and did so before the struggle was complete.

What I found in attending Bishop - after going to schools that were integrated through busing AND which in the process, destroyed a community school - was a sense of place, community and education which strengthened my self image. By seeing a black professors, a black president, and by being exposed to African-American literature and leaders from all fields, I got an understanding of what was possible for me and exposure to my culture that I NEVER got in predominantly white middle and high schools.

Now granted that was more than 30 years ago and arguably things are different - if not better. But I still believe that there is a similar place for HBCU's and what they can offer to not only black students, but students of all races. For me that is not in question. What IS in question is whether or not blacks in Dallas believe it to be valuable enough to exist here. I think it is a terrible commentary on our struggle to achieve the type of growth and progress that we say we want. But if that is the case, we need to say so.

I hardly believe that anyone would say that Morehouse is no longer valuable, nor Fisk, nor Spelman, nor Howard. Nor do I believe that they, nor Bishop, nor Paul Quinn, nor Prairie View for that matter are provide 'second rate' education. If you're talking about products/graduates - I've known second rate intellects from Yale and Harvard. And if Martin Luther King, Jr., or Benjamin Mayes received second rate educations, then please give me one!

I believe it is a matter of making a concious decision, as to whether or not in this day and age we, in Dallas, believe that an HBCU is valuable.

We shall see...