Morning Briefing - February 15, 2021


Vann Newkirk named Fisk permanent president

The Board of Trustees of Fisk University has named Dr. Vann Newkirk Sr. as the 17th President of Fisk University effective immediately. “We have had the pleasure of observing Dr. Newkirk’s outstanding work both as Provost and as interim President, and this was a unanimous decision by the Board”, said Chair Frank. L. Sims. Dr. Newkirk has been an essential part of the amazing momentum that Fisk has built over the past five years. The University is poised for an exceptional future and Dr. Newkirk’s experience and insight around new programming and sponsored research will be instrumental as Fisk continues to cement itself as a top 10 HBCU and pursue its goal of becoming a top 50 small liberal arts university.  (Fisk University)

Fulton development authority partners with foundation to improve infrastructure of two HBCUs

The request for assistance in 2007 to renovate and expand the central utility plant was not only an economic development opportunity for Fulton County, but it filled a crucial need of Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University. To fill this need, the school consortium approached The University Financing Foundation, which agreed to obtain financing for the project and contract for the management of the facility to remove that burden from the schools. And the foundation knew to look no further than to the Development Authority of Fulton County, which stepped in as a crucial piece of the financing plan. Together with the foundation, we enabled the project to be completed.

In 2014, the foundation once again reached out to the authority on behalf of the schools for approval of enhancements to the central utility plant to improve performance of the plant and increase capacity, all to ensure the continuation of exceptional services provided by Spelman and CAU. We were happy to oblige. Thanks to a 26% reduction in annual utility bills and maintenance expenses, the schools have used their savings to offset a portion of the debt service on the renovations. (Saporta Report)

HBCUs are landing top recruits - but systemic change requires something more

Over the past several months, however, it's been suggested that some sort of seismic shift was taking place in these games colleges play only for their own pay. A few elite teenage Black male athletes chose to play basketball or football at the HBCUs where Du Bois learned and lectured - where they often had little choice but to play for much of the 20th century - rather than at the predominantly White institutions where, since the 1980s, they've helped generate billions of dollars. Their decisions to go Black were touted in some corners as game-changers.

I was reminded of that misnomer last week when Howard University announced it was sidelining its men's basketball season due to COVID-19. This had been the most-anticipated season in forever for D.C.'s famous HBCU, where Du Bois spoke often and received an honorary degree. The small historic campus on a small rise in the city's most-storied Black neighborhood, LeDroit Park - where dozens of Black luminaries like Duke Ellington and Sen. Edward Brooke were born and reared or, like Paul Laurence Dunbar, located to and lived - was again making history. (Philadelphia Tribune)

HBCU newspaper editors tell us about their work and the significance of Black student journalists reporting Black news

I spoke with the editors about the importance of reporting Black news, they shared their journey as journalists, and we talked about some of the top stories covered by their newspapers this year. They all spoke about how being a part of historically Black newspapers gave them an opportunity to tell the stories of their communities—stories that are not always covered by mainstream media. 

My first interview was with Oyin Adedoyin, the editor-in-chief of Morgan State University’s Spokesman. First established in 1942, the Spokesman is a vault of historical events, documenting protest and riots, the Magnificent Marching Machine’s debut in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, and a Q&A with then mayoral candidate Brandon Scott, who became the youngest Mayor of Baltimore City. In the past decade, the publication stopped its print edition and is now a digital-only news source. (Student Press Law Center)