Photo Credit: Clark Atlanta University

WWJD #22: The Importance of HBCUs



“I wish I could say that racism and prejudice were only distant memories. We must dissent from the indifference. We must dissent from the apathy. We must dissent from the fear, the hatred and the mistrust…We must dissent because America can do better, because America has no choice but to do better.”

Thurgood Marshall

Today we celebrate Juneteenth. 

June 19th is Juneteenth. If you don’t know what Juneteenth is please allow me to give you a brief history lesson.

Juneteenth is now an official American holiday (as of 2021). It is celebrated annually on the 19th of June in the United States to commemorate Union army general Gordon Granger’s reading of federal orders in the city of Galveston, Texas, on 19 June 1865, proclaiming all slaves in Texas were now free.

Although the Emancipation Proclamation had formally freed them almost two and a half years earlier, and the Civil War had largely ended with the defeat of the Confederate States in April, Texas was the most remote of the slave states, with a low presence of Union troops, so enforcement of the proclamation had been slow and inconsistent.

Juneteenth is finally a national holiday. 

Historical Black College and Universities (HBCUs) have been an important seam in the fabric of our nations history, even if most people don’t know about or realize who attended them.

What are HBCU’s?

In 2018, I was up late writing an article on a Monday night. I was scheduling tweets to promote the new article, and quite frankly, I just couldn’t sleep. I’d had a lot on my heart and mind and I came across a series of tweets on my timeline from two men I greatly respect and admire, ESPN’s Bomani Jones and the NFL Network’s Steve Wyche, both of whom attended HBCU’s (Clark Atlanta University and Howard University, respectively).


Photo Credit: Howard University

They responded to a tweet from the site For the Win (a USA Today site) that posed the question, “Which college football team has the best marching band?” where they polled their “experts” who weighed in on the answer. The site’s “experts” selected Ohio St., LSU, Texas A&M, and Penn St. as their picks.

Their criteria: it was only FBS schools. Which colleges does that list exclude? Historical Black Colleges and Universities. This pisses me off to no end — the constant lack of respect and exclusion of HBCUs — but that is the norm when talking about sports, bands, or anything for mainstream media and sports media unless it’s something negative or controversial.


But I wonder out loud: is it a lack of respect or a lack of knowledge about HBCU’s?

Does the new influx of “reporters” even know what an HBCU is? Do they know the history of HBCUs or have they ever covered or been to an HBCU event? Do they know just how special and meaningful the band is to the university and its alumni? Watching “A Different World,” “Drumline” or “Stomp the Yard” doesn’t make one an expert or even give a glimpse of just how important HBCUs are to minority communities, to the community where they are located, or how many lives they affect in a positive way.

Why are HBCU’s important?

Let me attempt to give those who don’t know a brief education Historically Black Colleges and Universaries.

How were HBCU’s started? 

Photo Credit: CBS News

HBCUs were established with the intention to serve African-Americans for enrollment during post-slavery and segregation. In the 19th century, through the second half of the 20th century, the majority of schools located in the Southern United States prohibited all African-Americans from attending those institutions. In contrast, historic schools in other parts of the country regularly employed quotas to limit the admissions of African-Americans.

There are currently 101 HBCUs in the United States including public and private institutions. This figure is down to 20 institutions from the 121 institutions that existed during the 1930s. Out of those 101 HBCUs, 27 offer doctoral programs, 52 schools offer master’s programs, 83 colleges offer bachelor’s degree programs, and 38 schools offer associate degrees.

With the assistance of northern United States religious missionary organizations, most HBCU’s were started after the Civil War. But two Universities were established for African-Americans before the Civil War: Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (1837) and Lincoln University (Pennsylvania) (1854). In 1856, the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Ohio collaborated with the Methodist Episcopal Church, a predominantly white denomination, in sponsoring Wilberforce University, the third college in Ohio. Established in 1865, Shaw University was the first HBCU in the South to be established after the American Civil War.

That’s why HBCU’s were started. 

Some of the most influential and important people in American history attended HBCUs.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. went to an HBCU. 

Photo Credit: Business Insider

This distinguished list includes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Marian Wright Edelman, Langston Hughes, Alice Walker, Oprah Winfrey, Toni Morrison, Booker T. Washington, Nikki Giovanni, Spike Lee, and Katherine Johnson.

It’s safe to say for mainstream America, the first time anyone ever heard of an HBCU was on Bill Cosby’s spinoff show A Different World,“ where his daughter, Denise, attended Hillman College, a school Cosby, his wife Claire, and his parents all attended. For others, like me, it was “The Bayou Classic.”

Growing up, I inadvertently learned early on about a couple of HBCUs — Grambling State University and Southern University — because NBC would air “The Bayou Classic” football game around Thanksgiving every year. They aired “The Battle of the Bands” at halftime, and the show the bands put on was (is) spectacular.

While I watched “The Bayou Classic” for the football, the bands became one of my favorite parts of the show. I was so enamored that I decided to attend Clark Atlanta University myself. I was amazed at how the crowd wouldn’t leave at halftime, even when CAU was getting blown out. Instead, they’d stay to see the performance of the band, and shortly after that, they would leave.


Photo Credit: NOLA.com

I also saw a lot of white people there to record and watch the band’s routine. Some of them openly talked about how they were trying to “borrow” the band’s performance so they could use it for their own bands. The performances the band would put together every week were outrageous.

I also have gotten a chance to see three different HBCUs come to Las Vegas to play UNLV in three of the last four years (2015-2018). Howard, (who pulled off one of the most improbable upsets in sports history in 2017 when they were 37-point underdogs to UNLV only to come back and win), Prairie View A&M, and Jackson St.

Each has made the trip to Vegas to play the Rebels and (aside from Prairie View A&M) brought their bands to perform. I also had the pleasure to cover the inaugural Urban Invitational Baseball Tournament in Los Angeles back in 2008, when HBCU baseball teams traveled to LA to play USC and UCLA.

HBCU football has a rich history and tradition. 

But why is it that HBCU’s get overlooked when it comes to “best college bands” or other polls?

HBCU’s are more than parties and marching bands.

Why can’t they be in the same category as FBS (or D-1) schools? Is it because most of the FBS schools would be put to shame on the field or court or is it that certain members of the media just don’t want to give credit to the HBCUs? Is it that HBCUs are that “unimportant” to mainstream media and the only time they get any coverage is when they play an FBS school in a sport, during “The Bayou Classic,” or when there is some type of controversy or tragedy involving a school?


Photo Credit: Biography

Bomani Jones, Steve Wyche, Stephen A. Smith, Pam Oliver, Jim Trotter, and Michael Strahan are just a few of the sports broadcasting personalities and journalists that attended HBCUs. Entertainers such as Common, Erykah Badu, Lionel Ritchie, Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Mase, Brian McKnight, Toni Braxton, Kwame Ture, David Banner, Wale, Samuel L. Jackson, Chadwick Boseman, and Rick Ross all attended HBCUs.

Why is it that many celebrate Ivy League schools yet look down on HBCUs? Is it because we have been programmed our entire lives to think Ivy League schools are superior because they are perceived to be more prestigious compared to HBCU and other schools?

Yes, I ask this seriously, and I also ask that you really think about it. Who made the distinction that those educational institutions of higher learning are “more prestigious and provide a superior education” than an HBCU, and in whose eyes?

Famous celebrities went to HBCU’s. 

I had the pleasure to work for one of the most successful businessmen, athletes, and social activists, the late Willie Davis.

Civil Rights legends went to HBCU’s.

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

Mr. Davis was a Super Bowl champion and Pro Football Hall of Famer who played for the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, Vince Lombardi. He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., one of the most prestigious African-American fraternities.

Mr. Davis, who went to Gambling State University and received his MBA from the University of Chicago Graduate School Of Business in 1968, would sit with me in his office every Tuesday morning for AT LEAST an hour and discuss his role in the Civil Rights Movement. He spoke just as passionately about that as he did about playing for the Packers.

Mr. Davis owned radio stations, banks, and was a member of the boards of Alliance Bank, Dow Chemical (1988–2006), Johnson Controls (1991–2006), K-Mart, L.A. Gear, Manpower (2001–), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1999–), MGM Mirage, Rally’s Inc., Sara Lee (1983–), Schlitz Brewing, and WICOR Inc.


Photo Credit: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images

Are you going to tell me that Mr. Davis’ accomplishments are not as important or mean less because he went to Grambling? Would they mean more if he had gone to Yale? The answer is a resounding NO! To me, what he had to overcome in his life to become successful is more inspiring than a person who comes from a family of wealth and can attend a certain school because of their name or position of power without earning it.

But it seems to me like that would be the case because Mr. Davis went to an HBCU, and it’s a great feel-good story. Maybe a professor at GSU was an astute businessman and Willie took away so much in his class that it inspired him to get into business. Perhaps that same professor didn’t have the opportunity to attend an Ivy League school because of his color and he made a conscious decision to ensure all people who came through his class would have the chance to become successful. Maybe he took pride in that!

A lot of important people in American history went to an HBCU.

HBCUs are more than just bands, fraternities, sororities, and The Bayou Classic. HBCUs are institutions of higher learning that don’t discriminate on color, gender, race, or religion. If you’re offended by this, I don’t care. Get over it.

HBCU’s have been featured in mainstream TV and film for years.  

Can you imagine being told that your grades are great and your public service has exceeded what they are looking for, but because of your color, you can’t attend a particular University? That was the case for many who attended HBCUs and overcame the obstacles to reach success both professionally and personally. Oh, and just an FYI, that STILL happens today, just not as flagrantly as it used to.

So when I see, hear, or read an article about “Which college football team has the best marching band?” and they exclude HBCUs… Damn right, I get pissed, and I question their validity. There was ZERO diversity on their panel of “experts,” and there was a clear bias. I wonder if ANY of the “experts” ever attended and watched an event at an HBCU? Have they ever spoken to anyone who works for an HBCU? I doubt it.

HBCU’s were the only option for minorities for a long time. 

The unapologetic truth is HBCUs have been and continue to be looked down upon because they were founded by and started for African-Americans to obtain a higher education. THAT is COMPLETE and UTTER BULL***T.

Deion Sanders help propel HBCU football to the mainstream and made it cool for kids to go an HBCU

Photo Credit: Clark Atlanta University

I would LOVE nothing more than to see a bunch of 5-Star football recruits get together and say, “We are ALL going to Clark Atlanta University” and ball out while they were there. I bet others would follow suit and choose other HBCU’s like Florida A&M, Howard, Morehouse, Alabama A&M, Morris Brown, Grambling, Southern, Langston University, Fisk University, North Carolina A&T, and others.

The media wouldn’t know what to do; they would lose their minds because “Why would a 5-Star athlete choose an HBCU over Alabama, USC, Miami, ClemsonFlorida St., or Ohio St.?”

(Note: Since the original writing of this article NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders took over the Jackson State University program and in 2021 and 2022 had one of the best recruiting classes on paper, having an HBCU recruiting class ranked nationally for the first time in recent memory. In the 2022 class, Sanders landed Kevin Coleman Jr., the top-ranked slot receiver recruit in college football’s class of 2022, and took his time before making the announcement to pick Jackson State over the likes of Miami, Florida State, Arizona State, and others. He also signed Five-star cornerback Travis Hunter, the No. 1 college football prospect in the nation for the 2022 class, according to the 247Sports Composite.)

HBCU football is now on ESPN and has kids wanting to go there

I am blessed to have a brother by the name of Terrance Quaites, better known as recording artist TQ, and my partner in Franchise Sports Media. We have known each other for over 20 years and there are very few people in my life that I value more than him.

The Black College Expo helps get thousands of kids into college. 

I also have known Dr. Theresa Randle-Price, a woman who has inspired me to be a better man, father, friend, and person, for the same amount of time. Together, Theresa founded The Black College Expo back in 1999 and TQ has waved the foundation’s flag across the country since then. They have helped send THOUSANDS of young men and women to college and helped HBCUs reach students that they may not have had the opportunity to connect with.


Photo Credit: Medium

I was on fire when visiting high schools to inspire students to attend college, I realized that many students were told they weren’t college material, so I said to myself, ‘What can I do about it?’” said Dr. Randle-Price on the Black College Expo website.

You can check out the Black College Expo and see when the tour will be near you (after COVID-19 calms down) or click on www.theclollegeexpo.org for more information. Black and Brown youth have a wealth of opportunities for higher education and life building with our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. They won’t hear about them at school for the most part.

HBCU’s are more than just football and frats

Franchise Sports Media is here to help kids in Las Vegas get into college. We can help today. Send us an email to info@franchisesportsmedia.com

HBCU’s are an important fabric of American history. 

The unapologetic truth is HBCUs have been extremely vital to society. They have helped educate and produce some of the most influential people in American history. They have produced one of the greatest football players to ever play the game in Jerry Rice and countless iconic figures in society both today and in the past.

It’s time for the media to stop overlooking the importance of HBCUs and to give them the proper respect they deserve. They put in just as many hours educating, loving, and caring for their students to help them become our future CEOs and leaders. Give the HBCUs the admiration they deserve, the same way USC, Harvard, Columbia, Texas, Florida St., and other schools get theirs.

Juneteenth is a day to be celebrated.

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.




-Joe Arrigo – Franchise Sports Media



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