FINDING THE PROMISED LAND
By The Rev. Arsben D. Jennings
Around 1987, I went on a vacation from work to New Orleans to visit my first cousin and his family. While there, my cousin’s wife Dimples told me that her mother and family had prepared a special meal for me at their home in Baton Rouge, the capital of Louisiana.
Upon arrival at the home, the house was full of Dimples’ brothers and sisters and other relatives and out of the midst of this huge crowd came a little small strong beautiful woman with a kind sweet voice who spoke with assertiveness and strength and power and wisdom and knowledge.
She looked at me and said, “I had fourteen children and everyone of them graduated from colleges. I told them they could be whatever they wanted to be in life but they were not leaving this house without a college education.”
I was floored by the mannerism of her speaking with such strength and power her words left an indelible impression on my heart and spirit. She was strong and emphatic and persuasive and influential and dynamic she could have easily lead George Washington’s army against the red coats of Great Britain. Upon leaving her home while driving down the street we came upon a garbage truck and a black man was situated on the back of the truck and Dimples told me that was her brother. He had graduated from college but chose to be a garbage man or sanitation technician in life.
Right there in Baton Rouge are two great historical black universities, Grambling University and Southern University, and in New Orleans, Dillard University and Xavier University and many more black historical colleges and universities throughout Louisiana. You cannot go 50 to 100 miles in any southern state without running into an historical black college or university. There are 105 historical black colleges and universities in the United States with 27 of them with doctoral programs, 52 of them with graduate or master degree programs, 83 with bachelor degree programs, and 38 with associate degree programs.
Cheyney University in Pennslyvania was the first black college in the United States then Lincoln University in Pennslyvania established by the Quakers and Wilberforce University in Wilberforce, Ohio, which was run by blacks and had a black president.
Today at most historical black colleges and universities, the black student population is steadily decreasing but there has been an drastic increase in student population among white, Asian, Mexican, and international students from around the world. We all know about the Ivy League schools in the northeastern part of the United States like Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia and many more but do you know there is a Black Ivy League here in America which is composed of Howard University, Hampton University, Morehouse College, Spelman College, Dillard Univeristy, Xavier University, Fisk University, Tougaloo College, and Tuskegee University in Alabama? As of 2006, 23 percent of all historical black colleges and universities have female presidents. They have 25 black female provosts and vice presidents of academic affairs. Today there is between 61 and 63 percent of all student populations at historical black colleges and universities are female. Also, 43 percent of all faculty members are females.
We cannot write this column without mentioning Mary Jane Mcleod Bethune who started and founded the historical black college Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Fla., and was a close friend and advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor. She was a member of President Roosevelt’s black cabinet and she was president of the National Association of Colored Women and started and founded the National Council of Negro Women in 1935. She has gone down in history as one of the greatest women in the entire history of the United States.
In volume of work Ms. Bethune and Harriet Tubman outweigh the accomplishments of Rosa Parks though Ms. Parks work was significant and impactful. Ms. Bethune endured the horrendous harassment of the KKK while trying to register black women to vote. She was one of the first female presidents of any college or university in the United States.
Let me reiterate my words in the column on the war on poverty that education is the key and the solution to ending poverty and gang violence here in the United States. We must start as early as two years old training and developing the minds and intellect of young children in pre-school programs in order to inspire ambition and a hunger and craving for learning and the benefits of learning. Here are some of the benefits of education:
Education can identify your purpose in life, your skills and talents and potentials. Education can identify goals, aims, objectives and ambitions in life. Education can even define who you really are and what makes you tick and why you are the way you are in life. Education can give inspiration, aspiration, motivation, encouragement, determination, intensity and resolution in life. Education can create invention, innovation, originality, new technologies, and creativity in life. Education can give you pride, self-esteem, self-worth, meaningfulness, tenacity, thoughtfulness, compassion, care and concern for other people. Education can cause you to be a problem solver, bridge builder, conflict manager, someone who is just with balanced sound fair aspects and perspectives in life.
Finally education gives you the appetite and craving to learn and develop your mind and want to excel and achieve on the highest levels; it gives you stature, posture, status, position, elegance, intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Listen here mothers and women of Fort Wayne: You must be like Dimples mother full of fortitude and determination and resolution regardless of how bleak the situation looks or how dark the tunnel may seem my sons and daughters MUST AND WILL GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE. IF YOU BELIEVE IT IN YOUR MIND AND HEART AND SPIRIT AND SAY IT WITH YOUR MOUTH IT SHALL COME TO PASS. START TODAY RIGHT NOW TELLING YOUR CHILDREN YOU WILL NOT LEAVE THIS HOUSE WITHOUT A COLLEGE EDUCATION AND IT WILL AND IT SHALL COME TO PASS. GOD WILL LEAD YOU TO THE RIGHT PEOPLE TO GET ALL THE FINANCIAL HELP YOU NEED. TRUST AND BELIEVE GOD!