Black Joy

On your mark, get set, go (to HBCUs)! | Black Joy – April 15, 2022

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What’s your favorite shout out to historically Black colleges and universities?

Was it all the HBCU swag you saw in Black sitcoms (Here’s Will Smith looking fly in a Tuskegee University sweatshirt on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”) or movies like “Stomp the Yard” or “Drumline”?

What about Beyoncé’s 2018 “Beychella” performance or “Homecoming” documentary ?

What about this Ralph Lauren collection created by Morehouse and Spelman alumni to celebrate HBCU culture?

The legacy of our Black excellence is taking up space everywhere and I’m making sure you’re seeing it in all its glory!

Spread the HBCU pride by forwarding this newsletter to the classmates of your alma mater. Or you can share your own moment of HBCU joy by hitting us up here.

On your mark, get set, go (to HBCUs)

As a person who comes from a family with deep HBCU roots, I’ve cheered for my HBCU fam in many places. Football fields, basketball courts and in the streets during many homecoming and classic parades.

One place I didn’t expect to see HBCU representation was NASCAR. But after NASCAR banned Confederate flags and Alabama-born, North Carolina-raised Bubba Wallace became the second Black stock car racing driver to win NASCAR’s Cup Series race, I became interested.

Now HBCU swag is making its way around the racetrack thanks to John Cohen, the owner of NY Racing Team and a Grambling State University alum. NY Racing linked up with HBCU League Pass Plus, a streaming service for all things HBCU-related from athletic events to college tours to marching band competitions, and different HBCUs to bring more Black magic to NASCAR races. John is one of the few African Americans to own a NASCAR team

NY Racing’s car, which is a Chevy Camaro, was decked out with Grambling’s black and gold colors at Daytona 500 in February. It was the first time in NASCAR history a car highlighted an HBCU during the race. Grambling State University President Rick Gallot said John is an example of a Grambling alum using their platform to promote their school.

“I think this is a testament to the power of one. How one person, in this case John Cohen, has influenced tens of thousands or maybe even hundreds of thousands of people who did not know about Grambling previously, they now are familiar with our brand,” Rick said. “So, the message to all of our alums and supporters is: be the change  you want to see. If you think Grambling is a brand that needs to be promoted more, than be the catalyst.”

Other HBCUs have had their time on the track. Florida A&M University flaunted its colors and Rattler logo during a race in Las Vegas in March. Stillman College’s colors whipped around the Atlanta Motor Speedway later that month. Norfolk State University was featured on the car earlier this month at the Toyota Owners 400 race in Richmond, Va.

John said he will continue to highlight different HBCS thorough out NASCAR’s Cup Series. John chatted with Reckon sis/videographer Kavolshaia Howze to talk about this project and the response it has received.

Shooting a shot for history

The talent seems to keep pouring in and out of Jackson State University.

The Mississippi HBCU has been shaking the table due to the unapologetic voices of people like head football coach Deion Sanders (AKA Coach Prime) and Tomekia Reed, head basketball coach of the Jackson State Lady Tigers.

Now JSU is catching headlines again after Lady Tiger’s star player Ameshya Williams-Holliday became the first player from an HBCU to be drafted in the WNBA in 20 years. She was selected in the third round, 25th overall, by the Indiana Fever. In Gulfport, Miss., where Ameshya is from, a draft party full of friends and family erupted with excitement when she got the news late Monday night.

“It was an amazing moment,” Ameshya said during a Zoom meeting with media following the announcement. “I’m just grateful and thankful. I’m really lost for words. I don’t know what to say. It’s just unbelievable to me.”

This is all happening almost five years after Ameshya nearly quit the sport. She was playing at Mississippi State University at that time, but became burned out. After dipping from Mississippi State, many universities continued hitting up Ameshya to join their teams despite her hiatus. When Tomekia tapped Ameshya to join the Lady Tigers, Ameshya responded with a picture of a positive pregnancy test. But that didn’t change Tomekia’s compassion and care for Ameshya.

“I knew she had a very bright future,” Tomekia told Andscape. “I didn’t want her to feel like she messed up or that the chances and the hopes that she thought she had were now down the drain because she’s pregnant. I didn’t want her to think that. So my position was to show her that she can still accomplish whatever she wanted to come up with, as a mom.”

The birth of Ameshya’s son, Jace, in 2018 reinvigorated her love of the sport. It was then she started dreaming about joining the WNBA. Ameshya has been making her shots as the Lady Tigers’ star player ever since joining the team in 2019. She’s won Southwestern Atlantic Conference defensive player of the year three times, and she’s this season’s SWAC Player of the Year. She hopes being a historic draft pick will open the door for her teammates and other HBCU players to get on the national stage.

“I think no matter what school you go to, you still can do it. You just got to keep working hard, keep pushing and never give up,” Ameshya said.

Tomekia is making sure that eyes stay on her team so that it doesn’t take another 20 years for one of her players to go pro. She is already setting up a day for WNBA coaches to see her team.

“That’s something that they do at the Power Five institutions all the time. So, now we want to bring that to Jackson State campus,” Tomekia said. “Ameshya afforced us that opportunity to do that. So, just continuing to get exposure. They’ll see the skill development at our level. They’ll see that we are teaching our players. They’ll see that we are developing our players. They’ll see that we do more than just throw a ball up and play basketball.”

HBCUs in the news

Enjoy hearing the good news of HBCUs? Here is some more pride related content you may have missed:

Forget the Ivy League! Join the Rattler nation: Washington, D.C. native Curtis Lawrence was only 14 when he started college at George Washington University. Now 16, Lawrence has decided to turn down $1.6 million in scholarships from Ivy League schools like Yale University and Harvard University to study biology and computer science at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a HBCU in Tallahassee, Florida.

“First I started thinking about what schools had good biology programs,” Lawrence said. “Then I started looking specifically at HBCUs because I wanted the HBCU experience and to be surrounded by the people who are just like me and who are not only Black but academically talented.”

Understanding the assignment: Dr. Avis Williams, former superintendent of Selma City School district, is now the first Black woman to become superintendent of New Orleans Public Schools. She is an alumna of Alabama A&M University in Huntsville, Ala. Let’s go Bulldogs!

Dr. Williams was selected from a pool of 50 candidates who were nominated for the position. And her track record shows why. During her tenure in Selma, she raised Alabama’s report card score by eight points, shooting students’ scores up from 68 to 76. Graduation rates saw a six percent increase during her tenure, while reading and math scores jumped by six percent and eight percent.

“I am honored, humbled, and thrilled by this new opportunity with OPSB. I look forward to working with the community to do important work for Every Child at Every School, Every Day. I can’t wait to get started,” Dr. Williams said.

Spread your HBCU pride and your Black Joy! See ya on Friday!

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