By Edelia “Dr. Jay” Carthan,
Since the Ayers v. Fordice Settlement on February 15, 2002, the State of Mississippi has reneged on its obligation and promise to endow and fund Historically Black Colleges and Universities, HBCUs, in the ‘Magnolia State’. On Saturday, August 14th, a united, diverse, and determined movement will peacefully demonstrate outside of the Mississippi State Capitol in a fight for equality and equity to save HBCUs in Mississippi and throughout America.
A Zoom meeting was held Sunday at 2:30PM to plan for the march. The March to Save HBCUs will begin at the Masonic Temple located at 1072 J.R. Lynch Street in Jackson down the street from the campus of JSU. The march, a 1.6 mile hike, will end at the Mississippi State Capitol.
The State of Mississippi has refused to level the playing field by refusing to fund the endowment. The state has plans to take the Jackson State University (JSU) stadium and have taken nearly all of Mississippi Valley State University’s programs and given them to Delta State University. The State of Mississippi has refused to allow proper governance, missions and programs. Enrollment at every HBCU in America has gone down in recent years. Accreditation issues have caused a decline in enrollment at HBCUs. Covid has adversely affected HBCUs. This march is dedicated to the remembrance of the late Dr. Fred Humphries, former President of Tennessee State University and Florida A&M University, and Dr. Samuel L. Myers, former President of the National Association For Equal Educational Opportunities.
In 1975, Jake Ayers Sr., a civil rights veteran and parent of a student at Jackson State University, filed suit in federal district court claiming that the State of Mississippi had not provided adequate resources to its historically black institutions of higher education. The Ayers suit, based on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, eventually became a class-action lawsuit with the United States and Bennie Thompson, later a member of the US Congress, intervening as plaintiffs. The case originally was known as Ayers v. Waller since Bill Waller was Mississippi governor when it was filed. It was renamed Ayers v. Fordice in 1991 and later Ayers v. Musgrove. Attorney Ike Madison first represented the plaintiffs but later turned the case over to Alvin Chambliss.
In 2002, nearly three decades after the lawsuit’s inception, the state and a majority of plaintiffs reached an agreement to award the three historically black institutions $503 million over seventeen years. The settlement included funds for new programs, new facilities, and large endowments if each of the schools achieved a 10 percent nonblack student enrollment for three consecutive years.
Attorney Alvin Chambliss got emotional on the Zoom call as he prayed and asked God for guidance and strength to advocate on behalf of HBCUs.
“I’ve been in this fight a long time. I worked on Adams v. Richardson case, Attorney Chambliss said. “They refuse to enforce Brown v. the Board of Education decision. They refuse to enforce Ayers v. Fordice decision. Eighteen states passed voter suppression laws. Educated people vote. So they want to educate you, but they don’t want you to vote,” Chambliss added.
“In the Brown ruling, it basically said you cannot use race as a criteria for education.
There are still policies that are harmful to black students. They are in violation of the Constitution. They think Black folks are not going to fight them. God is on our side! We’re going to win. I may not get there with you. I am 77 years old, But when God tells you to do something, you have to do it and that’s what I am doing,” Chambliss stated.
Kathy Sykes, former State Representative DIstrict ??, is one of the organizers who is passionate about helping HBCUs and hosted the Zoom call on Sunday.
“This March to Save HBCUs is very important because these institutions are needed now more than ever. Higher education opens the door to a better way of life for Black people. These institutions take those who are deficient in many areas and bring them up to a standard that can compete with any of our majority institutions and they do it with Love,” Sykes said.
“As a mentee of Dr. Bob Moses, he often would tell us that Education is a Civil Rights Issue. HBCUs also are one of the major employers in our community. The entire economy of an area may revolve around the local HBCU,” Sykes added.
“On August 14, 2021 at 10am let’s show our Support for HBCUs! If you want more info., contact me Kathy Sykes at 601.906.1717,” Sykes concluded.