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Making the Case for Investing in HBCUs

UNCF’s iconic, “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” advertising campaign remains the gold-standard for shining light on the urgency of investing in Black colleges and universities. No nation, the stories in the campaign reminded us, can be great if it leaves behind a large portion of its residents. More than 40 years later, the need for sustained investment in historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) remains as great as ever.

With the change in presidential administrations, HBCUs have once again returned to the national conversation, with some openly questioning the need for such institutions, particularly in the face of advances over the past several decades. The conversation is not new and the answer has not changed.

We need HBCU’s to continue to exist and they need all of us helping to support their coffers and make the case to decision-makers about the continued value they provide.

HBCUs represent only three percent of all two- and four-year U.S. colleges and universities, but they enroll 10 percent of all African American undergraduates. They produce 17 percent of all African American college graduates and generate 24 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields earned by African Americans annually, according to UNCF’s Patterson Research Institute.

Part of the reason is that Black graduates of HBCUs are significantly more likely to have felt supported while in college, according to 2015 data from an ongoing Gallup-Purdue University study.

But statistics are only part of the story. HBCUs have produced influential Americans including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker, filmmaker Spike Lee, Oprah Winfrey and many other business, civic leaders and entrepreneurs.

On campuses around the nation, parents beamed last month as newly minted graduates of HBCUs set out to make names for themselves and to fulfill their dreams.

At Howard University, my alma mater, I witnessed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris remind graduates that the world will not always be welcoming and that they have a duty to serve.

“That is your duty—the duty of your degree,” Harris said. “That is the charge of a Howard graduate. So whatever you plan to do next—whether you want to design the latest app or cure cancer or run a business. Whether you’re going to be a dentist, a lawyer, a teacher, or an accountant—let your guiding principle be truth and service. At a time when there are Americans—disproportionately Black and brown men—trapped in a broken system of mass incarceration… peak truth—and serve.”

It is advice that we should also—no matter our age—aspire to. And one truth is surely that the nation’s HBCUs are as relevant and necessary now as when some of them were founded over 150 years ago. These institutions were an antidote to the racist policies that, in some cases, banned educating Black students.

At a time where college costs are going up, and attacks on Black students on predominantly White campuses are on the rise, the need for Black colleges is greater than ever. As a government, we have to continue to ensure that funding is there to keep this pipeline going. And as private citizens, we have to open our wallets to ensure the long-term viability of the institutions that are working for us and our communities.

Rushern Baker, a graduate of Howard University, is the county executive in Prince George’s County, Maryland. You can follow him on Twitter at @CountyExecBaker.





Off-Duty Officer ‘Treated As Ordinary Black Guy,’ Shot By Another Cop

A black off-duty officer was shot by a colleague in his St. Louis neighborhood Wednesday night, the Missouri city’s police department confirms. The city’s Metropolitan Police Department said in a statement that officers were responding to a possible car theft after a recognition software flagged a license plate. Suspects shot at the police officers after the car was stopped with spike strips and the off-duty officer, an 11-year department veteran who lives nearby, came out with his firearm to offer assistance, according to the statement.

The on-duty officers had asked the 38-year-old to get on the ground and he complied, but then they recognized him and told him to stand up and walk toward him.

“At this time, a responding officer (36-year old white male with over 8 years of service) just arriving in the area observed this and fearing for his safety and apparently not recognizing the off-duty officer, discharged a shot, striking the off-duty officer in the arm,” the statement says.

The victim was treated in hospital but has since been released, police confirmed. His lawyer, Rufus J. Tate Jr., told local news outlets that he considers the incident more severe than an accident. The police department has given no description of a threat, he said.

“This is the first time that we are aware, that a black professional, in law enforcement, himself being shot and treated as an ordinary black guy on the street,” Tate told Fox News. “This is a real problem.” 

Police have launched an investigation into the incident during which one of the three suspects in the car theft was also shot in the ankle. 

The officer who fired his gun has been placed on administrative leave, along with six other officers, according to the police statement. 

Neither the victim nor his fellow officer have been publicly identified. St. Louis Police Department did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.

The news comes after authorities released dash cam footage on Tuesday of Philando Castile’s shooting by St. Anthony Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in Minnesota. Footage showed that Castile, a black man, also complied with the officer’s orders before being shot and killed. 

Yanez was found “not guilty” of manslaughter by a jury but has been fired from his police department. The Castile case has highlighted a fear that there may be no justice for black Americans killed in police shootings, advocates say.

“It’s just like, a punch in my stomach, it’s a punch in the gut,” Castile’s friend, John Thompson, told HuffPost Tuesday. “Look what happened to Philando for doing all the right things. It hurts. Every time I talk about it, it hurts.” 

“I’m so tired of being tired, I’m so tired of being sad, I’m so tired of being angry at this system.” 








Judge in Bill Cosby sex assault trial declares mistrial due to deadlocked jury

Pennsylvania prosecutors vowed to retry comedian Bill Cosby on sexual assault charges after a jury on Saturday failed to render a unanimous verdict despite 52 hours of deliberations.

Judge Steven O'Neill, of the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas, declared a mistrial at 10:17 a.m., following a note from jurors saying that they were hopelessly deadlocked on three counts of aggravated sexual assault.

The result was a victory for Cosby, 79, who had faced years in prison for allegedly drugging and sexually assaulting college administrator Andrea Constand at his home near Philadelphia in 2004. But prosecutors immediately said they would seek a second trial, which O'Neill suggested could start within four months.

"She's entitled to a verdict in this case," Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele said at a news conference.

Cosby's spokesman, Andrew Wyatt, told reporters that the trial's outcome had "restored" his client's legacy.

But Cosby's reputation remains in tatters, following a slew of sexual assault allegations from about 60 women that have destroyed the "America's dad" image he built as star of the long-running 1980s TV comedy "The Cosby Show."

Constand's claim was the only one to lead to criminal charges, with many of the others dating too far back to allow for prosecution.

The entertainer had no visible reaction in court. As news reporters streamed out of the room, several other Cosby accusers, some in tears, waited in line to hug Constand, who smiled broadly and maintained her composure.


Outside the courthouse, as Cosby stood silently behind them, members of his team criticized the case against him.

"This is what happens - juries are stuck when a prosecutor seeks to put someone in prison for things that are simply not presented in the courtroom," said Angela Agrusa, one of Cosby's lawyers.

In a statement read aloud by one of Cosby's aides, his wife, Camille, who attended only a couple of hours of the trial, took aim at the prosecutors and the judge.

"How do I describe the district attorney? Heinously and exploitatively ambitious," Camille Cosby said in the statement. "How do I describe the judge? Overtly arrogant and collaborating with the district attorney."

The mistrial was a blow to the dozens of women who have said they were sexually assaulted by Cosby, including several who attended the trial wearing buttons that read "We Stand in Truth."

But Victoria Valentino, a former Playboy model who has accused Cosby of drugging and raping her decades ago, had a message for him: "You're not off the hook, buddy.

Constand did not speak to reporters, but her attorney, Dolores Troiani, said Constand was a "very spiritual person who believes everything happens for a reason."

Cosby has denied all of the women's claims, saying that any sexual encounters were consensual. He still faces several civil lawsuits from at least 10 accusers.

Cosby's starring role as beloved dad Heathcliff Huxtable in "The Cosby Show," along with years of family-friendly standup comedy routines, made him a household name. He became an in-demand product endorser, appearing in commercials for Jell-O, Coca-Cola and Ford.

He co-starred in the 1960s espionage show "I Spy," the first black performer to star in a weekly American TV dramatic series.

But his live performing career stalled in 2015, as multiple accusers began going public with their stories.


In Norristown, Pennsylvania, the jury struggled for days to agree on which version of the night in question to believe: Constand's or Cosby's.

Constand, then 31, met the married Cosby 15 years ago through her job as an administrator with the women's basketball team at Temple University in Philadelphia, where Cosby was a trustee and the school's most renowned alumnus.

She testified that Cosby acted as a mentor before offering her unidentified pills one night that left her unable to stop his advances.

Cosby's defense lawyers, however, argued that Constand's account could not be trusted after they pointed to numerous discrepancies in her statements to police in 2005, when she first reported the alleged incident nearly a year later.

In more than a dozen notes to the judge, the jurors asked to revisit huge chunks of trial testimony, including Constand's account from the witness stand, her statements to police from 2005 and Cosby's sworn depositions taken in 2005 and 2006, when Constand filed a civil lawsuit against him.

Cosby chose not to testify at the trial.

By Thursday morning, after nearly 30 hours of discussions spanning three days, the jurors told O'Neill they were at a stalemate. The judge instructed them to keep working, but despite marathon 12-hour sessions, the jury said on Saturday it was at an impasse.

The trial drew intense media attention, with more than 100 credentials issued for print, online, television and radio reporters.




Thousands March In Saint Paul After Philando Castile Verdict

Protesters rallied in front of the state Capitol in Saint Paul, Minnesota, on Friday after a jury found a police officer not guilty in the July 2016 shooting death of Philando Castile. Jeronimo Yanez, a police officer in the suburb of St. Anthony, shot and killed Castile, who was black, during a traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, was in the car with him and filmed the aftermath of the shooting. Yanez was found not guilty of several charges Friday, including manslaughter. 

Demonstrators had planned to gather outside the Capitol even before the verdict was made public, according to local news station WCCO. Saint Paul police estimated there were around 2,000 people at the rally as of 9:41 p.m. local time.

Shortly after the verdict was announced, Reynolds said in a statement that she was “incredibly disappointed.”

“My boyfriend, Philando Castile, was pulled over because, per officer Yanez, he had a wide nose and looked like a suspect,” Reynolds said, according to KSTP producer Ben Rodgers.

“It is a sad state of affairs when this type of criminal conduct is condoned simply because Yanez is a policeman,” she went on. “God help America.”

Protesters chanted “No justice, no peace, prosecute the police,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and, later, “Yanez, guilty!” as they marched down University Avenue in Saint Paul, according to local reporters.

In videos from the rally, the demonstration showed no signs of slowing down as the sun set over the city. 





President Trump taps inexperienced woman who planned his son's wedding to run housing programs

President Donald Trump appointed a family loyalist, who once coordinated his son Eric Trump's wedding, to head up the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's New York branch.

Lynne Patton has long been a staunch supporter and ally of Trump. Having worked with the family since 2009, Patton has arranged tournaments at Trump golf courses, worked as liaison to the family prior to his 2016 presidential victory and arranged his one of his son's biggest days.

And, as of Wednesday, Patton will be in charge of distributing billions of taxpayer dollars across Region II of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which includes New York and New Jersey.

Upon her newfound assignment, the NY Daily News raised questions about Patton's "inexperience" and close ties with the Trump family. Patton's resume on her LinkedIn profile states she obtained a Juris Doctorate degree from Quinnipiac University School of Law in Connecticut in 2000.

According to the outlet, the school's registrar spokesman, Jim Benson, said Patton didn't graduate with the degree and only attended the institution for two semesters.

Patton claims she never lied about the degree in response to a post about her misleading profile via Twitter Friday morning because she clarified "N/A" next to the degree.

Patton also listed Yale University on her profile but did not specify the years she attended the institution, nor her field of study as she had done with Quinnipiac.

Trump's pick for the new head of the largest HUD regional office in the country is slated to start her post in July.




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