The two largest historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Texas are playing an outsized role in helping their students during a historic winter storm that hit the state with unprecedented snow, ice and frigid temperatures. Amid the chaos, Prairie View A&M University (PVAM) and Texas Southern University (TSU), in particular, are making sure their students have access to the proper resources needed to weather the storm.
The freezing weather has hit the greater Houston area especially hard, causing residents there to go without heat after a widespread power outage that Texas politicians were busy blaming on each other instead of trying to restore electricity. For perspective, the last time Texas was this cold was more than 30 years ago in 1989.
Aside from the growing death toll attributed to the low temperatures, one of the other unfortunate byproducts of the storm has been the local water supply becoming tainted after freezing conditions caused pipes to burst. That’s resulted in a boil water order — an order irrelevant to the many residents suffering without access to the gas or electricity needed to boil the water.
So in classic community-first HBCU fashion, both PVAM and TSU have stepped up to make food and water available to their students living both on- and off-campus. And if the viral photos of bare supermarket shelves are any indication, providing those necessities was no small favor.
At PVAM — located in the city of Prairie View, north of Houston — the school has transformed parts of its campus into a “warming center” as other parts remain closed with remote and in-person classes suspended until Monday. In addition, the school was providing shelter for anyone in the city as well as its students.
Students were happily serving Chik-fil-A and had cartons of water on deck.
There were also university-provided shuttles to the “PVAMU Warming Center” Thursday night where meals were served at a campus auditorium.
It’s the same place where the PVAM Campus Activities Board tweeted it was also holding “Netflix Movie Night and Popcorn.” It was unclear which movie was shown.
About 45 minutes south of Prairie View, similar Samaritans were hard at work in Houston at TSU, where food was still being served despite the campus closure and suspension of classes through the weekend.
The school put out cots to accommodate people in need and provided cartons of water.
The need for such assistance that PVAM and TSU are providing cannot be overstated.
That was especially true for the safe drinking water, which the Associated Press reported was growing scarce across Texas. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality estimated that more than 14 million people in the state were affected by more than 1,000 water systems being compromised.
Worse yet, more than four dozen people have died as a result of the storm as of Thursday night. Some of the deaths occurred in predominately Black communities, which have borne the brunt of the storm’s effect. That’s no coincidence, a TSU professor recently told the New York Times.
“Whether it’s flooding from severe weather events like hurricanes or it’s something like this severe cold, the history of our response to disasters is that these communities are hit first and have to suffer the longest,” said Robert Bullard, a public affairs professor who has been called the father of environmental justice.
CNN has published an extensive list of ways that people can help Texans, including donating to the Houston Food Bank as well as the Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County.