Historically Black colleges and universities around the country have been rallying around one of their own in support of Morgan State University following a mass shooting on campus this week as its annual homecoming festivities were getting underway.
It was at once a proud display of Black unity and solidarity among HBCUs as well as an expression of compassion at a time when it would appear that the nation’s Black colleges are facing multiple threats to their security.
The gun violence at Morgan State broke out Tuesday night near a dormitory building for freshmen and left at least five people were injured with non-life-threatening conditions. On Wednesday, Morgan State President Dr. David Wilson announced that the Baltimore-based HBCU will cancel or postpone all of its homecoming activities, a beloved and sacred tradition particularly at Black colleges, underscoring the gravity of the situation. Meanwhile, law enforcement still had not identified any suspects and no arrests had been made as of Thursday morning.
The campus shooting in Baltimore doesn’t only affect Morgan State and its wider community of students, faculty, employees and alumni. It also has vast ramifications for its fellow HBCUs which – like Morgan State – have been faced with a series of bomb threats last year and other incidents that posed safety threats.
It was in that context that Coppin State University, an HBCU located just five miles west of Morgan State, held a prayer walk in Baltimore Wednesday night, according to the Baltimore Sun, which ran a headline that included the quote: “At HBCUs, we’re all family.”
Across county lines in suburban Washington, D.C., Bowie State University President Dr. Aminta H. Breaux was empathic while also urgent.
“Not just another day, nor should it be,” Breax wrote in a statement on social media. “The @BowieState campus community has @MorganStateU in our thoughts with hope for peace & healing for those injured in the mass shooting and the entire campus community, and for solutions to be found to stop the violence in our society.”
A few miles south, Howard University showed “solidarity and support” for Morgan state University.
“As we and other institutions of higher education around the country prepare to celebrate the beauty of homecoming season on our campuses, I ask that you join me in extending heartfelt prayers to the Morgan State University community,” wrote Howard University President Dr. Ben Vinson III, Ph.D.
The outpouring of support from HBCUs for Morgan State continued down south.
“The FVSU family is deeply saddened to hear about the recent incident at Morgan State University involving harm to five scholars,” Fort Valley State University, located in Georgia, posted on social media. “Our hearts ache with you and we want to express our utmost support and solidarity during this challenging time.”
Florida A&M University said it was standing with Morgan State in solidarity and drew attention to the counseling resources available to its community.
“Our prayers are with @MorganStateU during this time,” the Talahasee-based HBCU wrote in a social media post. “Everyone please be safe and reach out to counseling services on campus if you need someone to talk to.”
Sometimes, less can be more, and Hampton University in Virginia employed that approach in a social media post that included a brown “prayer hands” emoji followed by a single hashtag that spoke volumes: “#hbcunation.”
The shootings on Morgan State’s campus followed several other notable gun-related incidents at HBCUs this year.
Most recently, a white supremacist targeted Edward Waters University in Jacksonville, Florida, before being turned away by security and ultimately waging a racist shooting of three Black people at a nearby store in August.
That prompted Edward Waters President Dr. A. Zachary Faison, Jr. to call on the Biden Administration to “do even more to secure our HBCU schools who are under deliberate and vicious attack.”
Earlier in that same month, Howard University took steps to strengthen campus security following a vicious melee breaking out near the HBCU’s residence halls. While that violence wasn’t described as race-related, Howard still said it planned to install more than 1,000 cameras across campus, install card readers to control access to certain campus buildings, bolstered its security with an armed officer will be stationed in front of residence buildings and supply students with an emergency device they can use to call for help.
There was also the instance of a heavily armed white man who in April was arrested on the campus of North Carolina A&T University in the possession of a reported two handguns, two shotguns, one rifle, a crossbow, a machete, stun gun, hatchets, knives, choking devices, pepper spray, a blow dart gun, brass knuckles, and other weaponry in his vehicle. He also had more than 1,000 rounds of various ammunition.
The United Negro College Fund (UNCF), a historic organization advocating for HBCUs that counts Edward Waters among its members, recently said that the next step in securing Black college campuses must go the legislative route.
“All year long, we have asked Congress to protect HBCUs, and now is the time to pass the Homeland Security appropriations bill with language that directs the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to provide $100 million for HBCUs (annually) via the non-profit grants’ security program,” Lodriguez V. Murray, UNCF’s senior vice president for public policy and government affairs, said in a statement. “This program must administer the funds directly to HBCUs, not by the state governments. This will help HBCUs to be protected against threats by increasing security, developing plans on how to respond beyond simply calling the police, heighten the use of technology to monitor campus entry points, and make our environments the safe haven for learning they should be for the sake—and mental health and security—of our students.”
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