By Mark Veals
Data News Contributor
Students and leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities across the State of Louisiana came together for the First Annual “HBCU Day” at the State Capitol on Wednesday, April 24th. Representatives from Southern University in Baton Rouge and Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard University, Xavier University of Louisiana, and Grambling State University were welcomed by the State’s HBCU Advisory Council, and the Higher Education Governing Board: the Louisiana Board of Regents. Several university presidents who attended advocated for continued support and additional funding for these institutions that would go a long way to closing the education gap and in turn the wage gap in Louisiana.
“We hope that we’ll continue to have these kinds of opportunities, but Louisiana really takes the lead,” said Walter Kimbrough, Dillard’s President. “There’s work being done in Mississippi and Alabama but nobody’s doing it like this, so we should be proud of what we’re doing here,” Kimbrough said of the event.
Each school surrounded the rotunda with table displays and giveaways
showcasing their recent accomplishments that captured the attention of visitors to the Capitol and lawmakers alike. To begin the day, a joint press conference in the Governor’s Press Room was held to welcome students, alumni, and other guests. The presidents of each respective university also gave remarks on the occasion and brief updates on their campuses.
“If you do not educate the Black and Brown young people of this country, the county doesn’t meet its needs, and HBCU’s have been and continue to do this for Louisiana and the country,” said Reynold Verret, Xavier’s President.
HBCU Day at the Capitol was the first of its kind in the state let alone the nation.
The HBCU Advisory Council was formed by Sen. Wesley Bishop through Act. No. 236. Bishop said he rallied together with key higher education leaders to make it a reality. The council is made up of representatives from each HBCU and other governing bodies across the state.
“We have some of our finest academic minds leading the country right here at our HBCUs,” said Bishop, a Southern University at New Orleans alumnus.
The event featured HBCU culture and life with a pep rally in the afternoon. “HBCUnique” featured the bands from Southern University in Baton Rouge and Grambling State University, cheerleaders, and a Step Show from Black Greek Organizations. Also, student leaders from each university gave words of encouragement and shared how HBCUs shaped their lives for the future. The HBCU Advisory Council also discussed strategies and initiatives to advance the missions of their member institutions and how they can continue to impact the community.
“The goal of this was to put our HBCUs on steroids,” Bishop said. “We deal with state and local programs that we tap into all the resources and the money that’s available to make sure we’re a part of these partnerships that are going on around the entire country,” Bishop said.