Being a graduate of “The Mecca” Howard University, you know I had to check out the Stanley Nelson directed Tell Them We Are Risingculminating the rise and (in some instances) the fall of Historical Black Colleges and Universities such as Howard University, Hampton Institute,Morgan, Morehouse, Spellman, Fisk and so many other Historical Black Colleges and Universities.
Did you know that beginning with education, slaves coveted learning how to read or “talking to books” because they recognized that it would open a plethora of opportunities? Did you know that slave owners were fined if caught teaching ANY freed slave to read and write, while many freed slaves attended contraband schools to “catch a lesson ?” Tell Them We Are Rising shares stories recalled by respectable scholars in the African-American community, historical letters from freed slaves that became educated and a lesson in how HBCU’s went from slavery to where we are today.
This doc equates how our federal government created separate institutions for people of color that were built and implemented during the late 1800’s. Yet, in the 30’s and 40’s, a black college was literally the only place a person of color could obtain a college education. Unlike NYU or UCLA, teachers would watch over students to make sure they were able to do their best lifting out of poverty with the power of an education. Black colleges were redefining what being an educated person was. There’s something very powerful about coming into an environment where you are safe to be around people who look like you and will collectively achieve the same level of greatness.
Many HBCU’s have not been successful over the last 20 years. Morris Brown College, in 2003, lost its accreditation and now has less than 50 students. A school once known for its educational prowess and jamming band at homecoming, is now an empty shell of abandoned buildings and graffiti laden fields.
Young people are the engine of change and possibility. It is sincerely my hope that they screen this doc and institute the change that is sorely needed in order to keep these schools thriving into the future.
As a proud graduate of Howard University, Tell Them We Are Rising has a very special meaning for me. The educated woman I am today I partly due to being educated at an HBCU. Although there are many out there who will not share my sentiment, the ones who do must grab a torch and keep it moving so that we, as a people do not let this legacy become buried six feet under along with our ancestors and those who fought for education.
Tell Then We Are Rising will air nationally on the acclaimed PBS series Independent Lens on Monday, Feb. 19. As an accompaniment to the film, the website HBCU Rising serves to extend the conversation and ensure that each of the more than 105 colleges and universities are represented via the HBCU Digital Yearbook. This online resource that allows students, alumni and historians to archive their campus memories through personal memorabilia, including photographs, videos, newspaper clippings, awards, graduation diplomas and campus-life activities.