Friday, June 14, 2024

HISTORIC BLACK VEGAS | Let’s make UNLV as friendly for our children as an HBC

September 13, 2023 by  
Filed under Conversation

Claytee D. White

BY CLAYTEE D. WHITE

Fifty-five years ago, in 1968, UNLV broke away from UNR by winning its autonomy — and was given equal status to the institution that had birthed it. During the 1977-78 academic year, UNLV surpassed UNR with a total enrollment of 5,500 students. 

And now, after 11 presidents, UNLV is a Research One university with over 30,000 students, more than 3,900 staff members, 331 buildings, and six campuses throughout the valley. It is, above all, a minority-serving university because of the large numbers of Latinx and Asian students. Native American and Blacks are also part of this majority population — but Blacks make up only 12.5% with only 2,636 students. 

Let’s begin to recruit like mad/expeditiously/lickety-split and turn UNLV into our local HBCU. 

Historically Black Colleges and Universities have been around for 200 years and are mostly located in the South and Northeast — but there are locations in Texas and Oklahoma as well. The first HBCU, Cheyney University in Pennsylvania, was established in 1837, well before the Civil War ended in 1865. There are 107 HBCUs with the purpose of educating Blacks who were not welcomed by white colleges before and after the end of the institution of slavery. Essentially, these institutions were in response to slavery and segregation, but are still needed today because of the reality of systemic racism. 

Black history, culture, and mentorship are unmatched at HBCUs. Can we match these at UNLV? UNLV has excellent Black history, culture, literature, dance, and music classes — with increasing numbers of Blacks in robotics, nursing, medicine, law, education, engineering, and the sciences. 

I talk to Black students whenever I see them, because I want them to be comfortable and to invite their friends and family members to join them. And let’s extend this invitation to people in surrounding states. Let’s create a renaissance of 

Black culture, books, spirituality, salons (a cultural gathering place where philosophers, musicians, poets, and others of like mind come together to share ideas about science, history, politics, literature, and art) in Las Vegas with UNLV as the hub. 

By evolving UNLV, we can adopt the goal of HBCUs that offer a safe, supportive learning environment to Blacks — by expanding our diversity initiative to actively include Blacks in all minority-serving literature. Another HBCU goal is to improve the college education opportunities for Black people in America. Let’s make UNLV more HBCUish. The time is right. 

As I consider a vacation to Charleston, S.C., to visit the new International African American Museum, I have decided not to drive alone to Montgomery, Alabama’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice. I’m flying into Charleston for a few days and then flying to Montgomery. I feel as if my choices have been curtailed by the intense, renewed narrow-mindedness of those areas surrounding HBCUs. 

Come west, young men and women — and let’s try a renewed concept of Black education. 

If we build it, they will come.

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