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Carrie Welsh  00:02

You’re listening to Ethics & Education. I’m Carrie Welsh. This episode is the second part of a series co-produced by Rebecca Taylor and Ashley Floyd Kuntz. The series is based on their new book, Ethics in Higher Education: Promoting Equity and Inclusion Through Case-Based Inquiry. The second episode is about the ethical issues that historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, face. It’s a conversation with three scholars, facilitated by John Torrey. John is an assistant professor at Buffalo State, and an old friend of Rebecca and Ashley’s. Here’s Ashley.


Ashley Kuntz  00:43

We met John a philosophy camp, which is a graduate fellowship about philosophy of education. And he was really insightful and cool. And he talks a lot about Morehouse and what it meant to be a Morehouse man. And that stuck with us.


Rebecca Taylor  00:56

Yeah, we knew we wanted him to be a part of this project. John co authored a case about this topic in our book. And in this episode, John talks with Joyce King, Felecia Commodore and Corey Reed, his co-author on the case. Here’s John.


John Torrey  01:12

Thank you very much to future Dr. Reed, Dr. Commodore and Dr. King for giving their time to get this rolling. And I’m great looking forward to hearing the content of this conversation. So I’m, I’m Dr. John Tory, it’s pleasure to meet all of you. And we’re gonna be talking about some of the ethical issues facing historically black colleges and universities in the 21st century. So to that end, do the rest of you I want to take a quick moment to introduce yourselves just in case perhaps. I see. Mr. Reed, I’m looking right at you.


Corey Reed  01:49

Yeah, I can start us off. My name is Cory Reed. I am a PhD candidate at the University of Memphis. I am also a Morehouse College alum. And I’ve done a bit of writing on the topic of HBCUs and ethics. And I’m just excited to be with the podcast today.


John Torrey  02:08

All right, Dr. Commodore.


Felecia Commodore  02:10

Hi, everyone. Good afternoon. My name is Felecia Commodore. I’m an assistant professor at Old Dominion University in the higher education and community college leadership programs. And I engage in research that focuses on leadership, governance and administrative practices with a focus on historically black colleges and universities. And so I’m really excited to be part of this conversation today and look forward to what everyone has to say.


John Torrey  02:41

All right, and last but certainly not least, Dr. King.


Joyce King  02:44

Hello, nice to see you all again, to be with this group of illustrious philosophers and educational leaders. I’m Joyce King, I hold the Benjamin E. Mays Endowed Chair for Urban Teaching, Learning and Leadership at Georgia State University. I have a long career in education. I taught my first class in 1969 as an undergraduate in the newly established African American studies program at Stanford University where I was a student and an activist. I’ve served in administrative leadership roles at Academic Affairs, I was provost at Spelman College, I’ve been associate provost at Medgar Evers college CUNY, I was the chief diversity officer at the University of New Orleans. And my academic background is sociology, social Foundations of Education. I do research and writing about black education, just generally stated, and that has to do with various contexts where there’s HBCU, predominantly white minority serving institutions or community based education. So I’ll just leave it at that.


John Torrey  04:17

You see why I said she’s last but not least! So I will kick off the first question. And, Dr. King, if you wouldn’t mind if I pose it to you first, given the contemporary educational environment, which includes financial costs, changing attitudes towards the necessity of a college education, and significant social and political turmoil. What do you all think should be the purpose of HBCUs in the 21st century? And perhaps more importantly, how should they communicate this purpose for a new generation?


Joyce King  04:49

Well, as a researcher, what I did was ask some folks what would be their responses to these very powerful questions and so I have former students who are on the faculty at HBCUs. And colleagues who are in HBCUs. And I have two children who also graduated from HBCUs. So I’m going to kind of give a combined response my own views, as well as some very powerful responses that I got from people that I consulted with. So this first question about purpose, one of the ideas that was expressed to me was, why should HBCUs have to defend their purpose in this day and age that that’s, that’s not something that we should sort of buy into. But one of the really thoughtful responses I got, which I really do agree with very strongly, is that HBCUs should be preparing students to address the needs in our communities, not just a career path. With respect to marketing, I think HBCUs don’t have to present themselves as one or the other. If we up lift the tradition of excellence at HBCUs, that in itself is a marketing brand.


John Torrey  06:21

Dr. Commodore, I saw you nodding a whole lot during Dr. King’s response, you want to go ahead and jump in.


Felecia Commodore  06:25

Sure. I agree with a lot of what Dr. King shared HBCUs tend to be the only sector where we have to continually defend their relevancy and their existence. And that just that’s problematic when we’ve seen the impact that they have not just on higher education, but on society as a whole. So what I would say is, I think, looking into the 21st century, for HBCUs. I think they continue to be who they’ve always been, but in a way that is that is accessible and impactful to the students that are now coming through their doors, right. And so I think looking as to what they should be, and how they should expand upon their potential moving forward, and so they continue to be access points for opportunity access points for empowerment, I think that’s a really big piece of the work that they do with students and communities is empowerment, but also particularly we’re looking at the times and things that are going on, or being a sanctuary for learning and development, particularly for black bodies, right. And so being a space where black students can come and and learn and develop into their identities in a place where blackness is centered and celebrated. And finding some sanctuary there from a society that is at large, anti black. And so I think, in doing that, and committing to that they will continue to be these great engines of education.


John Torrey  08:08

I appreciate that as well, Dr. Commodore, the idea of these places and spaces that defend the black bodies that are coming through rather. So again, it’s almost like a I don’t have to make a case that is the case. Mr. Reed, that’s the proud Morehouse man; I buried the lead, I’m also proud Morehouse alum. So I’m sure you’ve got much to share on this. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as well.


Corey Reed  08:31

Yeah, my response is kind of from two different perspectives. One is trying to go back to 18 year old me and what got me to go to Morehouse right. And then number two is some of the research that I’ve done and some of the things that I think we are combating both in the humanities and social sciences generally as well as higher education as a as a kind of institution or infrastructure. So to the former, I was really interested in what place was going to value my intellect and let me grow as an individual through my blackness. And I’ll explain what that means, right? Coming into a deeper understanding as to who I am, and who I want to be, in the essence of who I am as a black male, right? That was important to me, I came out of the IB program, I came out of a Catholic school tradition where I was, you know, one of like three in a class. And there always seemed to be a subsetting of my intelligence. So I chose an HBCU because it was the place where I knew that wouldn’t happen based on my race alone, right. But also, I think that we need to talk about the idea of what it means to go to college in the 21st century, specifically 2022. Now, what does it mean for someone to feel safe in a more liberal atmosphere as it pertains to their sexuality as it pertains to their gender performance as it pertains to all these different aspects of what it means to be black and and really being able to express those things now. And, you know, well, we’ll have deeper conversation about conservative values at HBCUs as as we go forward. But, you know, I think that we really need to think about not just the civil mindedness, which Dr. King and Dr. Commodore, you know, show that it exceptionally. But let’s also think about what does it mean to embrace different and new ways of being for black folks at HBCUs. Right, that may have not been as accessible, as you know, in previous times, and we have an opportunity to embrace new ways of being. And I think that needs to be at the heart of what HBCUs strive to do in the 21st century.


John Torrey  10:48

What do you all make of the ideas of, of belonging, being comfortable while black as being central to the HBCU mission, but the tension that many students simply don’t receive that relationship? They don’t get that experience because of who they are? Again, going forward, how should we be addressing that kind of tension?


Joyce King  11:08

I’ll speak. This is Dr. King, again. I said previously, that when you think about the purpose, educational purpose, that’s a challenge for any institution. So belonging, safety, that’s a challenge for any institution. And when I think about my, my children’s experience, my son graduated from Morehouse. So we lived in California, and there was a contingent of young people coming from California in New York, who were seeking that, that a different world, you know, to go as, as a doctor to be doctor to be read said, what is going to honor my blackness and be a place where I can grow. So still, when you arrive, you arrive into an institution that is varied air is not homogeneous, there are people with different political perspectives, you talked about gender performance. Also, not all African American, we have large contingent of people from the Caribbean and from Africa, other parts of the of the black world. So the challenge is to create that space where people can be themselves, learn more about themselves in the context of a tradition of excellence. That is question and doubt it. And so I really resonate with the we quoted Dr. Dubois, at the end of our commentary chapter for the book, Dubois said, what I have been fighting for, and I’m still fighting for is the possibility of all black folk and their cultural patterns existing in America without discrimination, and on terms of equality. So if, if that is expressed in the HBCU, context, from administration, from faculty, from student groups, in the curriculum, then we are in the process of living a 21st century version of education that is inclusive, respectful, and offering the fullest opportunity for the potential development of young people and faculty from different backgrounds.


Corey Reed  13:38

Dr. King picked up on some great notes I wanted to add on the first thing that came to mind was Jose Medina has concept of epistemic friction, right? He thinks that it can be a very good thing, when you have opposing views, if they’re fostered in an environment well, and there’s never a true moment where one thing totally crushes another or there’s, you know, certain harms that happen, and so on and so forth. But he says sometimes these divergent views actually make really, really good things happen, right? I remember vividly some very powerful conversations between some of us who were more on the liberal side versus those who are black conservatives, for example, those of us who you know, I’m from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and I was coming down to the south. And even though my family derived from the south, I was not at the time a southern boy now a little different. Now, I’ve lived in the South for quite a while. But at the time I had I had very Midwestern notions about what it meant to be black and my experiences directly came from my relationship with Milwaukee, my interactions with Milwaukee’s Police Department, its education system, all of those types of things. And so I brought different perspectives and and those types of conversations and being able to foster those in a institution. that takes it as its core principle, the development and progression of black people offers a very unique experience. You know, John and I have both taught at the University of Memphis where a large portion of the students are Africana, but it doesn’t necessarily produce the same essence, as we had at Morehouse. Right. And I was wondering what in the world is it that does that. And I think it’s the combination of significant amount of black faculty, different views from African people all across the globe, right? An institution that actually takes it seriously, in its mission, in its in its focus, to think about these kinds of Africana issues, when we’re talking about the movement for black lives, what we’re talking about, historically, the bombing of Black Wall Street and when we’re doing it with a certain level of boldness, that I think does come with a unique essence of the space. So when we talk about belonging, I don’t think it’s just about oh, I’m comfortable here. I think it’s really about this is a place where I can explore what it means for me to understand and conceptualize myself within my blackness because it is inextricably tied to who I am. Right and, and for me to investigate that in a space with a bunch of people who have similar experiences in some ways, and then radically different ones and others. I stayed in the international hall, and we had very real conversations. A good friend of mine is a former Yugoslavian born, South African raised, white appearing young man. And he was born in Africa, however, and raised in some ways, African cultures, and came to the United States and has some very radically different views than those of us who were African American here in the States, those types of conversations was was the beauty of my HBCU experience. And so it fostered a sense of belonging, not by comfort, but by access to really digging deeper into who I am and who I want to be. And I think that is is a value that, you know, is at the center of HBCUs. But we also got to have a conversation about how do we get people to understand that before they actually step on the grounds, right?


Felecia Commodore  17:22

When I think about this, you know, one of the things we hear often used either anecdotally or even in research is this family feel that or this family kind of ethos that’s on HBCU campuses. And I think if we kind of stick along with that, that kind of metaphor, the the great thing about a strong family or family with, you know, very close knit is that everyone is committed to the mission or the understanding of like, what we feel the purpose of this family is or what the culture of this family is. But that may look totally different, right? Every family has a various cast of characters that all express who they are, and this heritage in their own type of way. And I think what makes a family healthiest that everybody is able to come together and still be who they are, though they all share, share share the same legacy and heritage. And I think it’s the same for HBCUs. And I will, because the research I do is mostly around kind of leadership and administration. I think there’s a role that leadership and administration at HBCUs have been playing out play in creating an atmosphere and creating campuses, where we can all say we are committed to this mission of this institution, right and the legacy of this institution. But also we all have a role that we play in embodying and expressing and living out that mission in ways that may be unique to the various identities that we have. I think we often act like that has to be a process that’s simply informal, but I think we can formalize it right, I think you can strategically plan for the various communities and cultures that are going to be represented on your campus and think about how we can strategically engage in our mission, execute our mission with those voices at the table, right and I think when you have more diverse voices in the planning more diverse voices in leadership, then you can begin to get input on how do we create this space, how do we create a space where people from various identities backgrounds can have have a feeling like they have a sense of belonging where else other than an HBCU where we can say the blackness and black education can look various ways and still are up be connected. And I think the opportunity is there, I think we’re seeing some HBCUs, who are who are sitting back and thinking about, okay, who have we left out of the conversation? Who can we bring in the conversation and make our campuses, kind of this prismatic understanding of blackness? So I think, what better place for it to happen to HBCUs?


John Torrey  20:20

To that end, I think this rolls into another one of questions I’ve had for you all, which is that part of what has made HBCUs valuable has been their ability to provide spaces for young people to address the burning issues of the day. But it’s all being done within the constraints of the institution. So considering that tension that exists between, you know, progressive ideals often being put forward by students about how to deal with say, the fact that student debt is exploding and for a number of black graduates, that’s going to negatively impact their ability to go through things like homeownership, how should the institution respond to that things like, you know, Black Lives Matters moving black live, as Dr. King mentioned earlier, we’re in that the the George Floyd moment here. So we’ve got ideas being put forward by the students on one side, and frequently conservative resistance to change by the institution on the other side. How should they navigate this in the wake of the amount of social upheaval around issues of racial discrimination? Like it, you know, it’s point blank, it’s out front, it is in our faces, and your students that we are, that we’re supposed to be caring for all the ones who are in the heat of this battle, right? We’re in the midst of that struggle that Dr. King mentioned before. So, Dr. Commodore?


Felecia Commodore  21:36

So I think, not just the HBCUs, but across higher education, student activists are going to save us. If there is going to be a saving of higher education in the US, it’s gonna come from student activists. When we look at every kind of major movement that has led to some kind of policy, some kind of impact on how higher education institutions do what they do. A lot of that started on the ground with student activism. And so that being said, thinking about some of the things we’ve shared earlier today and talking about HBCUs, and them being these spaces of development, and how do we navigate varying representations of blackness? How did these institutions continue to push forward in the 21st century, I think giving students the opportunity to speak to the issues of their day, always will will help us figure out what it is we’re supposed to be paying attention to. Right. And I think that’s hard for me to say hard, I think that can be challenging. For administrators, particularly I think about public HBCUs, who are often in tumultuous relationships with their state legislatures, and and state budgets, and funding and allocation and all of these things. I think leaders really have to think about how can they value input and voices of students on their campuses, who are experiencing their campuses real time, right? Not just what the camps is espouse to be but what they actually are doing, right, and to get real input into thinking about how those student voices, and what the students feel are important to them, can be integrated into how the institution executes its mission. I also think that putting leaders in place who value students, right, I think, if you you can if you don’t have leaders in place, who value students and I mean from the board to, you know, your your VPS, then student voice will often get squashed. And and what I would hope was we try to avoid that on HBCU campuses, because these students, particularly black students have to deal with their voices being silenced. In society, you would hope they would come to bases that are supposed to be empowering for black people and feel like their voices won’t be silenced in this space. We know that’s not what happens all the time. But I think in for for the institution to keep its finger on the pulse of how does it continue to operate in a way that will help students be successful but also have impacts in their community, then I think they have to give space for student activists and student voices, even when it’s uncomfortable.


Corey Reed  24:31

To kind of continue that thought I think it’s really important. And maybe this is because I’m a black existentialist too. But I think it is really important for us to think about engaging the students in the essence of their humanity and how they understand their freedom in the moment, right. I think that’s important and critical to the kind of educational practice we put forward. So you know, being on campus, and then the Troy Davis thing happened. And that was the first protest I participated in was for Troy Davis. And then that spiraled into Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, Philando, Castile, Breanna Taylor, and the end the likes, right? My activism was birthed truly, and my HBCU experience. And I think as we’re thinking about what it means to be an institution that cares, as that’s the word we’ve been using cares, but really has an investment and a deep connection to the humanity of the students that walk their campuses and are attached to them, especially when a large portion of them are Africana. Issues of police brutality means something totally different. When that is your dominant populace, right? These are your students that could very well be engaging in some of these, or be part of some of these issues. Racial discrimination when your whole institution has not only historically dealt with these things, but contemporarily deals with these things, right, the most beautiful part of my Morehouse orientation that I remember was learning about the bell, the bell that rings at graduation, and when first students first come in, right, the original purpose of that bell was to alert the campus when members of the kk k would try to abduct Morehouse men or men of Morehouse, right. And so the ringing of the bell symbolizes the unification of them to stand up and make sure that one of their own wasn’t taken. Right. That was that was the essence and the original purpose of the bill. There is a way in which that history that tradition carries its way through the legacy of HBCUs trying to instill in the students that there’s a way in which they are interconnected. There’s kind of an ethical and moral responsibility that we have to one another, both in community, and specifically on the campus that they walk upon. And there’s also this kind of metal responsibility that we have for the issues that plague black people, which goes back to what Dr. King was talking about at the beginning of our talk, is this idea that you know, these you are not just going into a career, you’re going into doing something that is supposed to be I don’t want to use the word progressive, but do something for the black collective in a larger sense, right. And that is a responsibility which we could have a whole nother discussion about whether you know that that burden is still good or not. But it’s it’s something that the HBCUs take very seriously for the most part. And I think that that’s important, we have to understand what these students are going through existentially. As they walk on our campuses, how do they feel in their humanity, their freedom, their their phenomenology, the way in which they’re able to engage spaces? Can they be their authentic selves? Right? Can they explore different ways of being? All of those things are super important as we’re engaging the movement for black lives? We’re in that George Floyd moment because I found how I was going to cope with being a black man in America. I found my methodology while I was at Morehouse, right. And I think that might be maybe not exclusively, but that’s the story of a lot of us as we came into understanding how we were going to engage the larger world once we came off of campus. We learned how we were going to do that coping mechanism on campus. Right. And I think that’s still super important.


John Torrey  28:33

I just want to say real quick, I got goosebumps when he mentioned the bell–I hadn’t thought about that bell in a minute. But I got those goosebumps because that is how you get connected with the campus and become one with it. And as Dr. Commodore mentioned, as you’re one with the campus. I really appreciate the the existentialist approach here. It’s necessary to know what’s happening to these black people, right? Like not just black bodies, but these black people as they’re maturing, growing up living loving and learning inside the space. How can they ultimately benefit from it? I got the chills. Okay, Dr. King.


Joyce King  29:10

Yeah, I want to add something, you know, this is not in any way…it’s, it’s an additive comment, not a different comment. So if we put everything that’s been said so far back into the epistemological political space of education. I liked to use the example that was provided to me by the former Dean of Education at Howard, Dr. Leslie Fenwick, she has a new book coming out. Jim Crow is pink slip. And she’s documenting what happened after desegregation. So you had desegregation, and now we’re in a George Floyd moment. So there’s different historical contexts for what we’re talking Talking about, and in terms of the Jim Crow is pink slip. She, she observes the record the historical record of the kind of black leadership that was permitted. So not only were black teachers and principals in the K 12 removed, but those who were then promoted, or you know, given approval would be people who, you know, the the system approved up. And so we now have more types of black people, right? We can choose where we want to live, we can choose what how we want to wear our hair, we can choose whether or not we’re gonna be careerist. But with this range of black people that then gets uplifted, gets affirmed, whether it’s a person who’s chosen to be the president of an institution, or who gets promoted, or who gets awarded, who gets the grants. All of that is part of the landscape of what I meant about this continue on ongoing set of choices. And so what, what we can hope for is that in the HBCU context, our students are engaging with the tradition, the intellectual tradition that has analyzed all this stuff, and can show us choices that were made in the past. So that currently, students can use that legacy that history to be more alert with the say, woke or more conscious of the range of options that exist, and some that they made need to create. And so as a faculty mentor, or as an administrator, working with faculty, this is part of the, you know, that dance that we constantly have to do, as some of us wear the mask, some of us rip the mask off and say, you know, this is it, and go take it no more. But this is part of the safety means you have a space to honestly, intellectually phenomenal, logically, phenomenologically engage with the fullness of what it means to be a person of African ancestry at this moment in time.


John Torrey  32:35

I think Dr. King’s favorite song is “Mask Off” by Future, think I’m just gonna put that out there. [laughter]


John Torrey  32:45

That seems to be I think, a tenor of the conversation the entire time has been whatever this institution is doing it, it better promote that these young people can get up, get out and go do something with the skills, the training and the information and the resources that the institution is able to provide them. And these resources, skills, training and info that’s often not given to this group of people. Right. So we just we want, you know, I think that’s something that came out very clearly throughout this. So with that in mind, the last question I got is with eye towards the future, right, like so HBCUs have done a great job producing black doctors, professors, engineers, creatives, and everything, importantly, all sorts of successful people across all different kinds of walks of life, you know. So with that in mind, you know, we should think about how the future is getting made in these institutions. And we’ve been talking about that in some ways, but why don’t we try to kick out what that really might look like, right? I’m particularly keeping in mind something like notion of Afro futurism where there is a real chance to create a new, novel world. And we could think of the HBCU, as of, you know, a microcosm of what that new novel world could look like, would look like or should look like. So what do you all think should be featured as something necessary?


Joyce King  33:59

Well, what I want to do is affirm as we have been doing throughout this conversation, that there is no one thing. So the idea of Afrofuturism is a range of perspectives, disciplines. And a belief that we, we are going into the future, that we’re not going to be erased, and that we have the capacity to remake the future in our own image, as opposed to joining a future that someone else has determined. And part of that, of course, is an efficient and effective and imaginative use of technology, our arts traditions, and our young people today are certainly at the forefront of creativity in terms of music and expression, artistic expression, so I would just say again, inclusive bringing more people into the conversation and using our creative traditions wisely and efficiently and taking the lead in a humanistic approach to technology. I learned years ago that it you know, blacks and science, we would be trying to build something to make the world better not just building a bond. So what does that look like in our curriculum? And how to how do our HBCUs negotiate where the funding is coming from a lot of funding be coming from the government a lot of funding coming from a worldview, that may not embrace an African reality? So how do we learn to negotiate those contradictions and still be ourselves.


Corey Reed  35:55

And so to kind of continue with that point, the thing that comes to my mind is Margo Crawford has a book called Black post blackness. And it’s very interesting concept, she kind of borrows from a Mary Barack has concept of the changing same. And so it’s the idea that we stay rooted and anchored in certain ways, as we like a tree grow and expand in different directions toward the sun, right? So the roots and the traditions, as we’ve talked about are the things that anchor us we get that rootedness that Toni Morrison talks about. But in the same token, we get this expansion and are able to blossom in different directions and look in different ways and be in different ways. And I think that’s the charge that HBCUs have at this moment. I think one of the conflicts that it has is not isolated to HBCUs at all, it actually is a is a Africana thought question. And that is as we are starting to imagine new ways of being and doing that kind of freedom dreaming that Robin Kelly talks about, as we’re doing that, we have to come into kind of we have to come into addressing some of the things imposed upon black people to be like the Western tradition, or to have to conform in certain ways. And we have to deal with those battlefields as they are. You know, one of the topics that John and I talked about, you know, extensively is, or have talked about extensively is this kind of conflict between training people for corporate America, versus really, you know, charging this revolutionary practices by which you just say bump all that right, then you can’t do either extreme, you know, you have to kind of find a way that you’re going to politically navigate within those kinds of things, right. So what does it mean for you to be imagining new ways of being, while also being in this moment in time, still being in a context where you might work on industries that as, as Dr. Commodore has mentioned, are explicitly or implicitly anti black, still navigating a world that has your income, packed in spaces that may not have the same ideologies that you do. And so as we’re talking about Afrofuturism, and imagining new ways of being and new ways of producing students and new charges, for the emerging years to come, we have to also simultaneously wrestle with what does that mean pragmatically, in this moment for both our students, our institutions, and so on, and so forth, because there are active things that come to combat those types of imagining practices. So we have to always, you know, kind of push forward, be anchored in what we we’ve witnessed the revolutionary things that our ancestors have done and our elders have done. That’s important. We never want to lose that. Because there’s nothing new revolutionary that we’re doing that at least in its in its core essence hasn’t been done before, the practices might be different. But the essence of rebellion is always the same. And so as we’re charging students to do that, we also have to keep in mind that we are charging students to do that. Well, we also want alum to be, you know, XY and Z ways and we have to figure out what our perspective is going to be with those two things at play.


Felecia Commodore  39:28

Yeah, I’ll jump in here too. I think as I as I think through this question, a lot of this comes down to the word for me is as read of redefining as part of Afro futurist understanding of HBCUs. I think one thing HBCUs need to consider and kind of this effort of futurist understanding themselves is redefining what success is right. One of the things in the work I do around black women student So we talked about this idea of holistic success, right? And how holistic success for our students may not simply mean graduating, right? It may be developing into this person, it may be getting through your first two years, finding out what your passion is connecting at holistic success, we really want to think about the whole, really, how do we build an ecosystem of black empowerment, right, can help foster that, which includes all these different aspects. So you’ll have creatives, you’ll have philanthropists, you’ll have business people, you’ll have activists, you’ll have people who, you know, build communities and, and grassroots organizers soon, but all kind of part of this larger ecosystem, that creates kind of this black empowered space that I think pushes to communities that you don’t have to be one thing, right, you could be entrepreneurial, and also creative or entrepreneurial, and also into business, right? Like these, these different understandings, again, pushing that prismatic understanding of identity and black identity, and really have these campuses can play a role in building that ecosystem, not just as individual institutions, but as a network of institutions. Right. Lastly, I kind of think about writing this, this theme of redefining, I think about Lovecraft country, which is probably the most Afro futurist thing that was on TV in the past few years. One of my favorite episodes, as some of you may can imagine, is Hippolyta’s “I Am.” episode where she is forced to name herself. And they keep asking her Who is she and like, to name herself. And I think that is going to be key for HBCUs in thinking of this Afro futurist understanding of themselves as naming themselves, and saying who they’re going to be, and what that looks like for them right, and really taking hold of how they approach executing their mission and who they’re going to be as we move forward. And I think Dr. King brought up a really good point right in these things, these these external forces that have to be navigated funding. We’ve seen the the way funding has put stem and all these different things. And institutions that may be sensitive to funding models and funding processes have to think about these things. They are realities, but how can we say name ourselves and say who we are, while being sensitive to those things, but not being drugged by them, not being defined by them, not having them lead us in our identity, but really taking hold right of that empowerment, ethos, and really thinking about, who are we who do we want to be, and naming ourselves for ourselves, and then acting out and executing that definition and manifesting the definition of who we say we are? And that that’s what I think about in thinking about an afro futurist HBCU.


John Torrey  43:20

You know, Dr. Commodore, you got Dr. King giving you a round of applause and the fist from future Dr Reed. I think you nailed that. Hammer and nail, you know what I mean?


Joyce King  43:29

The only thing I would say, just to kind of, you know, a second thought, is putting ourselves in a global African context. And looking at how African descent people are grappling with some of these same issues in different contexts and understanding those contexts. And that’s been also a part of our legacy. HBCUs have been the home for African leaders to come and be educated. So that is also something that this generation has the opportunity to embrace and carry forward into the future.


John Torrey  44:14

Okay. I’m gonna ask one quick question out of all three of you. Favorite thing about an HBCU? And like, in one quick sentence, what  you got? Dr. Commodore, what’s your favorite thing about HBCUs?


Felecia Commodore  44:26

Oh, you would come to me first! [laughter] I would say that if you went to an HBCU, if you didn’t go to an HBCU, my experience has been whenever you were on an HBCU campus or in an HBCU space, it feels like home. And and I think that is really powerful. And there’s something to be said there about how there is a culture created there, that says you belong even if you may not know necessarily authentically be connected with us, you are connected with us, you are part of our community. And so that that is something that I think is really special.


Joyce King  45:11

I would say part of being at home is the role and respect that we have for the elders, whether they’re living or in the legacy. And in my experience on an HBCU, in a predominantly black campus, the joy that comes from struggle. It’s fun.


Corey Reed  45:40

I guess my favorite thing from my HBCU experience, and what I love about HBCUs is that it provides a space whereby you can come into a deeper love for yourself, both in the transcendental past that you come from all of your ancestors and your elders, you in this moment and who you can be. It is both a deep responsibility, and I would even say it’s heavy, kinda like that Howard Thurman quote that we love to evoke at Morehouse, right? That that crown that’s held above your head, it’s a large responsibility, but in the same token it is a deep and beautiful love that I think is fostered on these spaces.


John Torrey  46:28

And I’ll tell you all mine. It’s graduation. Ain’t nothing like getting out. [laughter]


John Torrey  46:37

Seriously, that processional with all your professors standing there and they’ve been seeing you here for the four or 5, 6, 7 however long it took you and your your family’s there and Anne Watts is screaming about “We got all the men of Morehouse!” The goosebumps, there’s nothing like an HBCU graduation and nothing like getting to see the city come out and witness and celebrate you know, something that’s unfortunately rare but something that we need to see more of which is black people finishing up college and finishing and getting out into the world to see what they can do so yeah. And Homecoming! Okay, thank you all so much. This was a fantastic conversation. I learned a ton. Like I said, you all have me taking notes and I’m an active professor at Buffalo State College. Y’all have me getting my stuff together. I learned a ton. Dr. Commodore, Dr. King, future. Dr. Reed, I look forward to seeing that defense in a few months. I thank you all so much for everything.


Rebecca Taylor  47:44

Thanks so much for listening. I’m Rebecca Taylor. I’m an assistant professor at the University of Illinois.


Ashley Kuntz  47:50

And I’m Ashley Floyd Kuntz. I’m a clinical assistant professor at Florida International University.


Rebecca Taylor  47:56

Ashley and I are the editors of the book Ethics in Higher Education: Promoting Equity and Inclusion Through Case-Based Inquiry.


Ashley Kuntz  48:02

and we made teaching guides about these episodes. Those are linked in our show notes.


Carrie Welsh  48:07

This episode was produced by Rebecca Taylor, Ashley Floyd Koontz, Jessica Harless and Carrie Welsh.