“Education is the biggest business in America. It has the largest number of owners, the most extensive and costly plant, and utilizes the most valuable raw material. It has the greatest number of operators. It employs our greatest investment in money and time, with the exception of national defense. Its product has the greatest influence on both America and the world.”
– Charles R. Sligh Jr.
This idea all started with a conversation with a friend of mine who moved to Houston from London who was absolutely enthralled by the idea of the HBCU and her belief that it could work in London. Initially, upon thinking on this idea I thought it would be best for HBCUs to recruit Afro-Britains from their secondary school into our undergraduate HBCUs here. After realizing the short sightedness on my part I’ve since changed my tune. This is in part because the vast majority of 18 year olds (and people in general) are not ready to go far from home let alone out of the country. We see this in the United States where the majority of a college or university’s student body comes from within state. Secondly and more importantly, there is also the added benefit of HBCUs expanding their international presence within the Diaspora along with an institutional foothold into how economic and political policies are contrived in Europe about Africa.
The demographics of the United Kingdom in terms of Afro-Britains are not as large as the Afro-American population but they are large enough to potentially support two U.K. HBCUs. Currently, the United Kingdom’s total population is around 62.2 million according to the World Bank of which 1.5 million are of African descent. Overall, 17 percent of the United Kingdom’s population is under the age of 15. Given the birth rate pattern of immigrants and socioeconomics of poorer classes its not hard to estimate that the under 15 figure percentage is even higher in the Afro-Britain community. This means that there are well over 250,000 Afro-Britain who at some point will become college age. This indicates an immense opportunity for HBCUs.
Jacqueline Brooks, the mother of Afro-British twin geniuses Jonathan and Marion Brooks-Bartlett, said in the Voice, a leading Afro-British newspaper, that many black parents often don’t understand he concept of higher education and are afraid of incurring a debt for their children. This statement alone screams opportunity and calls to part of the mission of HBCUs. It is often easier to deal with fears such as these when you believe the people talking to you have a shared interest with you which could be promoted through our shared African heritage. Her children are now 22, and set to complete PhDs in mathematical biology and chemistry respectfully and would be a wonderful set of researchers and professors to launch the new HBCUs. If we are talking of building a bridge between the groups in the African Diaspora then education is something we can all truly rally around. HBCUs can become one of the conduits of social, economic, and political exchange within the African Diaspora.
The set-up. There would be two universities created and owned by U.S. HBCUs through a trust. In order to make sure of non-duplication you’d potentially have the two schools located in the 2 largest U.K. cities or one located in an urban area and the other located in a rural area. Whichever would be more strategically beneficial. You would divide the research and professional schools, primarily with one having a law school and other a medical school, but both would have business schools with different areas of expertise and focus. The natural rivalry will allow for competition in academic and sporting events to feed off each other and build community pride. The board of trustees would be a mixture of Afro-Britain’s community and an advisory board of HBCU personnel from the U.S.
The benefit for U.S. HBCUs would be providing new research, studying, recruiting opportunities, and ultimately influence abroad. It would also allow for the natural expansion of the HBCU Credit Union to expand into Europe with two U.K. HBCUs to service. I’ve seen quite a few HBCUs expanding abroad in places that quite honestly have nothing to do with the strengthening of the African Diaspora. This is an opportunity to make a tangible statement about our commitment to who we are and who we serve. We are Americans by force but we are Africans by grace and HBCUians by love.