Three HBCUs Create Racial Justice Centers To Combat White Supremacy

Isheka N. Harrison
Written by Isheka N. Harrison
Three HBCUs (historically Black colleges and universities) launched centers for racial justice amid massive protests following the murder of George Floyd. In this photo, Chinedu Nwokeafor, an alumnus of Morgan State University, speaks during a rally in support of Maryland’s four historically black colleges in Annapolis, Maryland, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Three historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) launched centers for racial justice amid massive protests following the murder of George Floyd.

Dillard University, Shaw University and the University of the District of Columbia (UDC) have all formalized their respective institutions’ fight for civil rights. The schools are located in New Orleans, Louisiana, Raleigh, North Carolina, Washington D.C.

At Shaw, The Center for Racial and Social Justice will host lectures, do research and provide academic programs to combat racism and injustice, ABC 11 reported.

“The rioting that occurred in Raleigh, around our state, and all over America is a symptom of an illness that has gone untreated for far too long. Racism and injustice are the disease, and if we look only at the symptoms, nothing will ever change,” Shaw President Dr. Paulette Dillard said in a statement about protests that broke out across the country after Floyd’s murder.

She noted the university’s standing as the oldest HBCU in the South and its involvement in social justice issues since its inception.

“Shaw University has been at the forefront of the movement to promote human and civil rights and social justice throughout its history,” Dillard continued. “Creating the Center for Racial and Social Justice at Shaw will honor that tradition, but more importantly, enable Shaw and those who share our values and concerns to carry that tradition and commitment forward.”

The center will be led by Shaw’s Dean of the School of Arts, Science and Humanities Dr. Valerie Ann Johnson and the Dean of the School of Divinity Dr. Johnny Bernard Hill as co-directors.

“The power of this center is to bring together voices from different perspectives and backgrounds to come up with constructive solutions and a vision for how we can live peacefully,” Hill said.

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UDC’s center is called the Institute for the Study and Elimination of White Supremacy in America. The school announced the institute’s creation on Juneteenth.

“George has opened the eyes of the world to the challenge before us,” UDC President Ronald Mason said. “To confront white supremacy, the roadblock to a better America, to understand how it works and what it does, to dismantle it and redesign the nation so that none of our human potential is wasted for the sake of a few. That is why we have established the Institute for the Study and Elimination of White Supremacy in America at our University to begin the process of making America great.” 

He added that it was past time for America to call white supremacy what it is at all levels.

“White supremacy cannot have its cake and eat it too. America’s success requires a better business model, one that allows human potential to flourish whatever its color or class. Start with the truth. Say that white supremacy in all its manifestations is the problem. Say that white supremacy is evil, a sin against the Laws of Nature,”

Dillard University’s Center for Racial Justice (CRJ) will be under the direction of Dr. Ashraf Esmail, program coordinator of Dillard’s Criminal Justice program.

Through it, Dillard hopes to “to become the leading educational conduit between law enforcement, community leaders, and citizens in New Orleans and the nation,” Esmail said in a press release.

Dillard President Dr. Walter Kimbrough said the center was born out of a sense of duty to address issues the nation is facing in the current climate.

“Our center came out of robust board conversations about what is our role at this point in time,” Kimbrough said in an emailed statement to Moguldom. “Our board chair, Michael Jones, is the lead attorney on the Maryland HBCU lawsuit that seeks equitable funding from the state. He helped push us to ask how can we play a role in addressing not only issues of policing and race, but all the multidisciplinary ways we can look at race and justice in order to make our city, and this nation, a better place.”

The center’s overarching mission “is to bring systemic change to the way policing is done in communities of color and to promote partnerships with law enforcement including police departments and sheriff’s offices, graduate, and professional schools.”

Shaw’s center will also study the impact of Covid-19 on Black Americans and Dillard’s center is gearing up for its debut class on police brutality.

As HBCUs, the schools have been described as “uniquely positioned to tackle an issue of this magnitude.”