Joe Biden has decided to launch a full offensive to court historically Black college and university (HBCU) graduates and current students in his bid for the presidency.
To support Biden in his efforts, Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Randall Woodfin joined a call with HBCU students and alumni on Thursday, May 14, to lay out Biden’s plans for Black America, and HBCUs more specifically.
HBCU Students for Biden, a segment of the National Students for Biden, laid out the former vice president’s $70 billion investment plan for HBCUs. Southern Political Director Vincent Evans, an HBCU graduate himself, explained that Biden’s plan was partially written by HBCU graduates who understand the intricacies, complexities, and necessities of expanding access to universities, Pell grants and affordability, once accepted.
The student debt crisis affects Black students in specific ways and Evans argued that Biden’s plan will relieve families of some of the burden of college expenses by providing a pathway to HBCUs, which he described as the “lifeblood of the country.”
Mayor Woodfin, a proud Morehouse College graduate, has been a strong supporter of Biden’s bid for the presidency. The politician explained the necessity for debt-free students and Biden’s plan for free tuition for families whose income falls below $125,000, while also touching on Biden’s healthcare plan. According to Woodfin, there are currently 101 HBCUs serving roughly 228,000 students across the country.
Woodfin represents a city that is 74% African American and is the third poorest federal district in the nation.
He explained that many of his Birmingham residents lack access to adequate healthcare, therefore intervention and support from the federal government is needed to provide the real medical care the people of Birmingham require. Woodfin argued that Biden’s plan addresses the racial inequities and health disparities present in so many communities across the United States, especially in the era of COVID-19.
According to Woodfin, what is really at stake in this election is the prioritization of healthcare, an opportunity to participate in the American Dream, a larger belief that we can succeed, and a level playing field for African Americans—not just on the collegiate level but from Kindergarten through 12th grade.
When asked what can be done to support Biden’s bid for the White House, Woodfin reminded the HBCU graduates that the solution to many of these complex policy issues lies within the HBCU students and graduates themselves.
He reminded the HBCU participants that not only did they have the power as young people, but as the “Now Generation,” it was up to them to transfer their credibility to family, friends, and folks within their sphere. To educate those communities and explain the importance of particular policies in order to make a difference and change the current path within our nation.
As the convening began to conclude, Evans reminded the HBCU participants, “The blacker the college, the sweeter the knowledge,” and restated Biden’s commitment to keep HBCUs at the forefront of his policy priorities. As many universities face an uncertain future post-coronavirus, a detailed commitment for HBCU funding from a presidential candidate is essential to the survival of our historical educational institutions.
For those interested in getting involved in the effort to support the campaign or the HBCU organizational efforts go to @BidenHBCU on Twitter and Instagram.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, political editor at The Grio, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream”, and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC.