Somebody Say Hey We Want Some… Votes?
I am a fan of Uncle Luke and the 2 Live Crew. They hit the scene when I was a student at the University of Georgia. I remember first hearing them at our Alpha party because our DJ, Clay T (a White guy from Macon), played them and we asked after who that was? My roommate Marc and I bought the album (yes album) and listened to the filthiest songs known at the time! We looked at each other and asked, “Can they say this?”
They provided a balance to my love of Public Enemy (I could have the profane and the profound). I even started wearing untied FILA tennis shoes because of them.
Through the years I have followed them, most notably their stances on free speech. I invited Uncle Luke to speak for my hip hop and ethics class in 2014. It was an awesome conversation and glad that he came.
Recently, Uncle Luke created a stir with this tweet:
It has been interesting watching the responses and the subsequent discussions. I think it is a good topic. But I also think it is an opportunity to look at what has been done. As an HBCU president, I am going to address this very narrowly. But I would say Biden’s work on remaking the judiciary is MAJOR. It doesn’t get the press it deserves because it is a long game play, but if folks haven’t learned anything, the long game is important.
If you don’t believe me, ask Mitch McConnell. Dude single handedly gave Trump THREE Supreme Court Justices, none of which have a record that suggests they will support the issues important to Black people.
This also answers Luke’s question about why Black folks need to vote.
Let me offer five things the Biden administration has done to fulfill his promise to support HBCUs.
- Through the American Rescue Plan, HBCUs received $2.7 billion in funding. In addition, another $1 billion went to predominantly Black institutions. The part of this that most people don’t understand is that HALF of this money went directly to students. This was the 3rd package of funding for HBCU students, the first two under President Trump. However, this package, called HEERF III, is bigger than the other two combined. This is real money that went to students directly, and in some cases, also used to clear balanced owed to institutions as well.
This is unprecedented in the history of American higher education.
U.S. Department of Education Announces $3.2 Billion in Additional Higher Education Emergency Relief…
The U.S. Department of Education announced today $3.2 billion in additional emergency grants under the Higher Education…
2. The Department of Education discharged $1.6 billion in loans for 45 HBCUs. Again, unprecedented. Roughly half of the HBCU sector had loans forgiven from the HBCU Capital Financing Program. Being a sector where 2/3 of students are Pell Grant eligible, and with studies showing HBCUs had to pay more for loans, therefore reducing the spending value of their loans, this was a welcomed development. Some discounted this as the government simply not collecting money, but that’s not how government works. Democrats wrote language in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 to fund the discharging of loans.
When our Katrina loan was forgiven, it had to have money to pay for it. Legislation was passed to fund the forgiveness. President Trump actually threatened not to sign the package (this was a tiny part of the overall bill so not something he probably even knew about), but during his administration Congress provided the funding to make this happen.
Department of Education Discharges Over $1.6 billion in HBCU Capital Finance Debt
The FAFSA Simplification Act, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, signed into law in…
3. Expansion of Second Chance Pell. This program began in 2015 under President Obama to assist incarcerated persons with completing a degree. This (unfortunately) overwhelmingly benefits Black people. Biden added 73 new sites so now 200 colleges and universities can offer this program.
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4. Protection of SEOG, Work Study and TRIO programs. Anyone who works in financial aid at an HBCU knows how important these programs are for students. What the vast majority of Americans don’t know is that President Trump repeatedly tried to cut these programs in his budget requests. While people gave him credit for signing Alma Adams’ FUTURE Act (which is all he did and there are fools saying this shows he tried to fund HBCUs), his budgets told a different story.
Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) Statement on President Trump's Proposed Fy2020 Budget…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TMCF Media Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org WASHINGTON, DC (March 11, 2019) - Today, the Trump…
I’m pulling out the language from this press release from TMCF in 2019:
Most notable are the Administration’s proposals to eliminate the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program and to cease providing any mandatory Title III funding, which represents an approximately $80 million fiscal cliff for HBCUs. For instance, the FSEOG program remains a critical component of financial support for HBCU students, over 90% of whom receive some form, if not multiple forms, of federal financial assistance to attend college. Additionally, we are concerned by the proposed cuts to the Federal Work-Study program, which is another area of critical financial support for HBCU students. Mandatory Title III funding remains a critical component to the sustainability of our nation’s HBCUs and we urge Congress to maintain this necessary funding.
Both SEOG and Work Study have been maintained at their previous levels, and with the 2022 omnibus bill there was a small increase in Pell Grants. Sometimes protecting what you have is doing a good job and keeping your promise.
5. Increases in the major HBCU Federal programs. Only one budget has been approved for President Biden, FY 2022 which ends September 30th. The President signed an omnibus bill in March which provided some real increases in HBCU funding. The biggest HBCU program, Title III B, was funded at $337.6M in FY21, but grew to $362.8M in FY 22 via the Omnibus. Strengthening Black graduate institutions grew from $87.3 to $93.1M, and strengthening HBCU masters grew from $10.9M to $14.8M. In both his FY22 and FY23 budgets, he requested $402M for the Title III program, which I believe to be the largest requested increase by any previous president.
Of course, there has been the criticism that Biden promised over $70B for HBCUs AND other minority serving institutions. Based on other programs it probably meant about $20B for HBCUs. People conveniently forget how this process works- he can’t just give money. No President can. If so, don’t you think Trump would have fully funded his coveted wall? Congress refused to provide full funding so he ended up diverting funds from the Department of Defense using emergency powers. That option is not available for HBCUs.
These are my five things the Biden administration has given to HBCUs. But all HBCUs advocates need to do like Uncle Luke says, “Don’t stop! Get it Get it!” There has to be constant advocacy by all of us to continue to receive support for these institutions and other causes important to Black people.
Which leads me to Luke’s other question. Why vote? Because we need to have people in power who will approve the President’s budget requests. As we know the Senate does not look like America, and with it being 48 D (sort of), 50 R, and 2 I, there is no guarantee any bill will pass.
It makes me think of Charles Blow’s excellent new book, “The Devil You Know.” I think it is an interesting strategy for consolidating votes in Southern states so that, much like the militia states, there is now a voting block that can ensure issues important to Blacks are enacted. If you had Black majorities in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana for example, and the senators looked like the new majority of those states, there is a lot that can get done.
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Maybe it's not just voting. It’s moving South then voting.
But I think the real question is not should Blacks vote. The question is, what do Republicans know about voting which causes them to try to limit voting rights, reduce polling locations and times, eliminate ways to vote, and even pressure Secretaries of State to “find” votes?
That’s the question.