Howard Students protesting campus living conditions and silencing student voices in institutional governance say they are willing to shut down the upcoming Homecoming festivities if necessary. Tuesday afternoon, the Blackburn Takeover Family issued a group video statement addressing an encounter with Dr. Cynthia Evers, Howard’s vice president of student affairs, and what they described as an attempt to intimidate the students.
Speaking as a collective, the group explained they refused closed meetings but also would not allow for individuals to be pulled aside for conversations lacking transparency.
“This is a clear and concise message from the Blackburn Takeover Family to administration; we will not be leaving this building until our demands are met,” one student said. “So, the sooner you come to that realization, the sooner we can get the f*ck out.”
Students explained they were willing to disrupt any Homecoming activities or potential donor opportunities for the school until the administration sat down with the group. As previously reported by NewsOne, in addition to assurances of habitable housing, the students want the reinstatement of student and alumni participation in the Board of Trustees.
HBCU students demanding institutions meet their needs are not limited to those at Howard University. On Monday, Atlanta University Center students launched an occupation of the Clark Atlanta University Promenade, demanding their respective administrations address basic living conditions.
In a statement titled “Declaration of Occupation: Atlanta Student Movement Takeover,” Clark Atlanta University students were joined by their counterparts from Morehouse and Spelman Colleges, requesting their school presidents conduct a full assessment of student housing needs. The students also called on the Biden-Harris Administration to address the gap in HBCU funding in the Build Back Better Act.
Addressing Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock along with Reps. Lucy McBath and Nikema Williams, the students, requested the four lawmakers to move Congressional action on HBCU funding in the Build Back Better Act and demand the memo promised earlier this year on the president’s power to cancel student loan debt.
While the budget is up to Congress, the Build Back Better agenda is President Biden’s signature economic policy proposal. The administration can use its influence to help push for a better budget to address historic inequities in funding.
Politico reported Monday that the Biden administration is navigating options for student loan borrowers when payments resume in February, but still no word on the promised evaluation of student loan forgiveness. The promise of student loan forgiveness is significant for Black students who tend to carry a higher debt burden than their white counterparts.
As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, school facilities are in dire need of upgrades across the country, with HBCUs requiring significant investment. Per the AJC’s reporting, students in the Atlanta University Center often rely on loans to cover housing and expenses.
The Atlanta Student movement declaration comes a week after students at Howard University occupied the Blackburn Center demanding better conditions. Despite receiving a significant donation from alumni, Howard’s administration has failed to provide a meaningful response to students resulting in what some would see as an aggressive response to those protesting.
This current wave of protest comes just three years after students organized under the banner of HU Resist. Students occupied the administration building for nine days after mismanagement of student financial aid was uncovered. Many of the issues being raised by students at Howard and the Atlanta University Center echo concerns of prior students.
The administration promised to evaluate on-campus housing after the 2018 protests.
Joining Howard students Tuesday afternoon in a show of solidarity, D.C. Ward 4 Councilmember Janeese Lewis George put the battle over housing conditions in the context of the greater issues for Black people across the District. George talked about the gentrification across the city but particularly around Howard, and the impact on the students.
“We’re still fighting the same uninhabitable living conditions in D.C. that you all are facing here,” George said. “Every time a building is sold, that’s a building less able to serve students, whether it’s the academic building or housing. And gentrification is absolutely a result of capitalism.”
George also connected the student’s fight for representation on the Board of Trustees, a previous victory that was recently rescinded, to the broader movement for D.C. statehood. Black people on and off campus are fighting for self-determined government and representation.