Howard University Protests week two

Since October 12th, about 50 or so students at Howard University have been encamped outside of the Blackburn University Center on campus protesting issues ranging from faculty and curriculum, to the primary concern drawing the most mainstream press—mold and mice in some of the student dormitories. 

For those unaware, Howard is one of the most revered HBCU’s and is one of only four with a chapter of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society (along with Fisk, Morehouse, and Spelman). Since 1986, the University has produced four Rhodes Scholars—second among HBCUs only to Morehouse College (five).Indeed, Howard’s undergraduate and professional programs have produced a roster of graduates that reads like a “Who’s Who in World History.”

Men and women like:U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Howard Law Dean/Professor Charles Hamilton Houston, Political Science Professor, and first Black Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr. Ralph Bunche; Civil rights legend Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), Civil rights legend, U.S. Ambassador, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young; Vice-President Kamala Harris, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Patricia Roberts Harris; the 1st President of Nigeria, Nnamdi Azikiwe; New York City’s first Black Mayor, David Dinkins; Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy; Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings; Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winning writer Toni Morrison, writer/social critic Ta-Nehesi Coates; Rev. Jeremiah Wright; entertainment mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, Academy Award winning actress Taraji P. Henson, entertainer/producer Debbie Allen, actress Phylicia Rashad, actors Ossie Davis, Chadwick Boseman, and Anthony Anderson.

Despite the university’s storied history, the current students at Howard University are well within their rights to demand changes that will further enrich their academic and extracurricular experiences. Which is why after perusing social media comments from concerned posters who don’t understand how Howard’s physical plant could be so lacking in some aspects, I think that it’s important to note that Howard is the only HBCU that was chartered by Congress (in 1867) and in the time since, the school has depended upon the Federal government for much of its funding much in the same way that other prominent HBCUs like Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T, Southern, and Tennessee State, depend upon their state legislatures for their operational budgets.Thus, one of Howard’s major issues at this critical moment in current politics is in hoping that President Joe Biden’s proposed budget is ratified by Congress and upon passage, that University President Wayne Frederick and other leaders accede to the very basic demands of their student body, which include:A. Permanent reinstatement of student, alumni and faculty affiliate positions that are being removed by the school’s board of trustees;B. Addressing student housing as well as providing legal, disciplinary and academic immunity for protesters.Here’s hoping for a consensus on the Howard campus in the days ahead!In Memoriam: Paul Pichon, Man of MorehouseSo, I met the late Paul Pichon on my very first day at Morehouse College on August 17, 1990 as we moved into Graves Hall (and our own experiences with roaches, mice, bad lighting, and faulty hot water heaters) to begin freshman orientation week. 

Paul Pichon (second from the left), with our Morehouse classmates Vince “Akil” Grant, Marco Aguabella, and Aaron Short, and our Spelman Sister Piper Williams—in September of ‘90.Now, Paul had already been on campus for a few weeks as he was enduring two-a-day practices with the Morehouse College football team. A gifted athlete, Paul decided to leave the team before camp ended, a fact that was a loss for the Maroon Tigers—but a gain for our Graves Hall intramural team that would proceed to whip just about all comers that Fall with him and my roommate Perno Young splitting time at quarterback, Ol’ Hobbs blocking for them at center, and my friends Ayinde Waring and Kyle “Bullet” Dumas at running back. 

Paul (far right), watches as Kyle Dumas follows Hobbs’s block for a huge gain against Hubert HallA little over two months after we started our academic journey, on a picturesque October day, as I sat on the steps of Graves Hall waxing philosophically with my “Florida Boyz” Victor Owens, Kenneth Taite, Aljohn Scott, and Richard Alan, Paul emerged from the dorm with a srriking young lady friend of his who was a cheerleader at Clark Atlanta University. The pair stood there chopping it up with us for a few minutes, after which they walked off towards Clark’s Harkness Hall, traversing amidst a spectacular view of the sun setting through the trees and shining upon that iconic building’s golden dome.

Several hours later, our Dorm Director, Tim Rose, gathered the entirety of Graves Hall together on the first floor and, while choking back tears, told us that Paul and his friend had been in a horrific late night car accident on I-20; the young lady was killed instantly, but Paul—thrown hundreds of yards from the vehicle—was fighting for his life at a local hospital. As the collective tears and prayers flowed, I held out hope that Paul, an exceptionally strong athlete, would pull through…our prayers would go unanswered…he died early the next morning…Paul Pichon was only 18-years-old.

In honor of Paul, I now post several Facebook reminisces from some of my dearest friends about the day that we all came to realize, as the spiritual lyrics provide, that “time is filled with swift transition…:”

Lest we forget…