The problem of black male enrollment in college starts with the lack of black males in high school and junior high.
By TOM JOYNER
Every year, I visit more than a dozen black college campuses giving graduation speeches and helping them raise money. It makes me feel good to see all those students’ smiling faces, but there’s something missing. As much as I like to see all the African-American women graduating from historically black colleges and universities and enjoy getting all those hugs, I’d like to get more firm handshakes from young brothers in caps and gowns. In other words, I’m not seeing enough black males’ faces at these graduations, and that’s got me worried.
In fact, I’m so worried, my foundation started a scholarship fund – “Brothers on the Move” — to make sure more black men stay in school — and graduate. Already, I’ve given $2,500 scholarships to young black men at Tougaloo College, Cheney University of Pennsylvania and Tennessee State University. Before the end of the year, young men at Edward Waters College and Savannah State University will be recognized. I had to do something to at least level the playing field for these brothers and make sure they have every chance they can to get a college degree. The reality is that the statistics tell the story.
At many HBCUs, there are twice as many women as men enrolled and more black females graduate than black men. In fact, the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education reported that black women received more than two-thirds of all degrees earned by African-Americans. What makes me even angrier is a recent Census report showing that in 2006, black men were 37 percent of the total inmate population in the United States. That’s outrageous!
The problem of black male enrollment in college starts with the lack of black males in high school and junior high. There are dozens of studies that look into why black males don’t stay in school — lack of interest, boredom, eagerness to enter the workplace right after high school or to find other means for making a quick buck, and lack of mentors or parents interested in keeping them focused.
Whatever the reasons, I’m not getting caught up in the studies, but I’m taking action — and others have to step it up if we’re going to reverse the trend. I’m encouraged when I talk to educators such as Frederick Humphries, who during his tenure at Florida A&M University started the Black Males Explorers Program to improve the academic performance of these students in grades 7–12. It offers the students classes to strengthen their test-taking skills and really helps them in some of the traditional problem subjects such as math and science.
Humphries believes, as I do, that we have to better prepare these students so that they have good enough grades to get into college and can keep up with the schoolwork once they’re in college. Humphries knows that if this issue gets even more complicated post-college. That’s when black women complain about the lack of educated and professional black men. So, this isn’t just an educational problem, this is a sociological one that affects many lives and families.
Then there’s brother Raymond Winbush who back in 2001 wrote a book called “The Warrior Method,” that offers parents methods on teaching black boys to better face challenges socially and academically. With a $50,000 grant from the Will and Jada Foundation, Winbush created The Warrior Institute at Morgan State University in Baltimore. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith were so inspired by Winbush’s methods that they used some of the concepts to teach their son. Now, Winbush has trained thousands of teachers and is traveling the country, going to school districts with large numbers of black males preaching and teaching them the values that will help them succeed. That’s the kind of effort and energy we all need to make a difference.
So, yeah, I’m worried about our black males, but I’m also encouraged. I’m going to do all I can so that as I travel to black colleges around the country, I’ll start seeing more and more black male faces like mine.