By: Angela Allen
A s a young black woman, the success of my fellow young black brothers is very dear to me. I attend one of the most historic and influential institutions of higher learning in the United States, North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University. Our institution, along with many other historically black colleges and universities, stand for ideals that reflect integrity, success, eagerness for education, and the production of individuals that inspire, advocate and produce progress and change within our society.
While these ideals continue to stand true, they seem to be diminishing slowly right in front of my eyes. I have unfortunately witnessed the murders of fellow classmates too often during my tenure at A&T. These murders, tragically, have reflected a growing trend: the murder of the young college black man.
Within the past three years, the deaths of A&T students Ivan Coulton, Dennis Hayle, and Derek Hodge, along with other college incidents within the Greensboro and Winston Salem area, have many wondering why so many young men produced from these great institutions, are getting involved in altercations that continuously result in intentional and unnecessary death.
“This issue needs to be looked at in regards to changing the mindset and instilling values in the black man within the college campus,” says Whitney McCoy, 2009-2010 Student Government Association President of Winston Salem State University. “I think that it also has a lot to do with people that surround our communities. For example, mingling with the locals who don’t have the same mindset that college students do.”
Most HBCU campuses were founded and built within black communities long ago, that were once thriving with black-owned businesses, and unified by the moral and social challenges against African-Americans. Unfortunately, a lot of these communities have slowly dwindled due to illegal drug abuse and trafficking, which has promoted black-on-black crime.
Since most HBCU campuses lack gated perimeters around their campuses, community locals are granted access to interacting with students, more so than predominately white colleges and Universities. This lack of campus seclusion may lead to HBCU students exposing themselves to a party life involving community citizens prone to violent behavior, illegal drug use, and in the worst case, fatal out bursts. This was the case for Hayle, who was tragically murdered after leaving a party in early 2009.
“It is really heartbreaking.This is their chance for a better life,” says Dominique Donaldson, A&T Alumni and founder of the Dennis Hayle Scholarship. “I had to go through counseling until the day that I graduated to cope with his death. Working so hard with starting the scholarship has helped me to heal. You have to give back to the community and give kids from broken homes someone to look up to while they are young. You have to let them know that you can’t get too emotional about situations..it may end your life.”
“We’re doing what we can based on the circumstances. It’s not just about Dennis Hayle, it’s about everyone,” says Wayne Kimball, Jr., Current SGA President at North Carolina A&T State University. “We have to make sure that we are advocating for non violence and holding our law enforcement accountable for doing all that they can do. This issue needs to be addressed more so as a society versus just as a university. We can have fun, but we need to make sure that it is with the right crowd and avoid negative influences.”
The death of Coulton, in May of this year, can also be associated with those same negative influences. Although these victims may not be involved with illegal drug use, the people in these environments often times are. In many cases, the use of alcohol and drugs creates an atmosphere of individuals with weapons acting on impulsive feelings of anger and revenge, leading to fatality.
“Today’s fights seem to favor the coward holding the gun, not the courageous soul facing it,” says A&T student Malcolm Eustache, in a recent Greensboro News & Record editorial on Coulton’s tragic death. “The pressure of society’s barbaric assertions of masculinity has served as a psychological gun for impressionable young folks to mishandle.”
It is disheartening to think of how the founders of HBCUs would feel if they were here to witness that mishandling. It has been said that black men are becoming an endangered species. This is sadly becoming the case for many young black men at HBCUs. Campus status does not exempt you from this unfortunate reality. But making the choice between being involved in negatively influenced atmospheres and rising above your circumstance, can.