This week, Howard University alum Kamala Harris made history as the first Black woman and HBCU graduate to run on a major party ticket.
As a double-HBCU alum holding degrees from Shaw University and North Carolina Central University, this announcement was deeply meaningful to me. More broadly, this moment is a testament to the critical role of HBCUs in uplifting and supporting our Black youth in North Carolina and across the country.
My time at Shaw and NCCU was unforgettable. It gave me the confidence to embrace my identity as a Black woman and the tools to build my career, which now finds me leading Joe Biden’s campaign in battleground North Carolina.
My experience is not unique: Black graduates of HBCUs are more likely to have higher personal and financial well-being than their counterparts at predominantly white institutions. HBCUs out-perform other colleges in both retention and graduation of first-generation, low-income African American students, and they contribute $14.8 billion annually to our economy as a whole.
These statistics resonated even more yesterday, on Black Women’s Equal Pay Day, the day in 2020 when a Black woman’s earnings finally catch up to the 2019 earnings of an average white man—four months longer than it takes a white woman to achieve that number.
The fight to close this unacceptable wage gap and end discrimination against Black women is close to both my heart and that of our future Vice President, Kamala Harris. HBCUs are critical to the success of young Black Americans, especially Black women, and it’s time that they receive attention and support that reflects this important role.
North Carolina has the most students enrolled in HBCUs out of any state in the country, with three campuses located in the Triangle alone. Facing unique challenges due to their smaller endowments and lack of technology infrastructure, these institutions are struggling to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The selection of Harris, one of our own, injects much-needed hope into these institutions—and lends additional strength to Biden’s concrete plans to support them and advance racial equity in our society.
Biden’s proposed investments—$18 billion in tuition grants, $10 billion to create at least 200 new centers of excellence, and $20 billion in infrastructure for research facilities—represent more than just a validation of HBCUs’ essential position in our economy and education system. They represent life-changing opportunities for millions of Black students who, just as Senator Harris and I did, step onto a campus for the first time that is full of people who look like them.
This week was a turning point for so many underrepresented groups who are finally seeing themselves at the top of the ticket. For HBCU grads like myself, it’s a symbolic and material testament to the schools we are so proud to represent. Kamala has our back, and we have hers.
L.T. McCrimmon is the North Carolina State Director for Biden for President. Previously, she served in Governor Roy Cooper’s office, with Deborah Ross for Senate, and on Capitol Hill with former Congressman Bob Etheridge. She is a native of Scotland County, holds two bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Criminal Justice from Shaw University and a Master of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University.
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