February is Black History Month, and to mark the occasion, the Brooklyn Nets are creating events that honor the lives, achievements, and accomplishments of Black people.
On Monday, the Nets honored one of Brooklyn’s great athletic talents, Connie Hawkins who played most of his career with Phoenix. Hawkins, a Hall of Famer, attended Boys High in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
The team is also hosting a college fair and panel discussion with the organization HBCU night. The topic of Historically Black Colleges and Universities is an incredibly worthy one and has been a point of contention in the Democratic primaries thus far.
In the Spring of 2019, the President of Howard University, Wayne Fredericks, spoke to The Atlantic’s Adam Harris about the funding issues HBCUs face:
I have to admit that I’m not usually of the proclivity to suggest that you need the federal and state support, especially for private institutions. In this circumstance, though, I do think it is a responsibility because the diversity of what the 102 HBCUs are providing is so strong that the federal and state governments have an interest in seeing them thrive. [Take] the issue of black doctors as an example. Or if you look at black dentists: Forty percent of the black dentists in this country are produced by two schools—Howard and Meharry. So as far as I’m concerned, the federal government should take an interest in making sure that those schools thrive so that we can boost that.
The other reason is because there’s an outsized burden that you’re putting on these institutions. I’m a surgeon; I trained at Howard. Howard has probably produced more African American women surgeons than any other institution in this country. And since 1970, we’ve probably produced 50 to 60 of those young women. You think about that in a country of 300 million, for one institution to do that and that’s the largest number for any one institution, is a problem. What happens if Howard goes away? All of a sudden we take a crisis and we turn it into an extinction in terms of seeing certain faces in certain fields. So I would think federal and state governments do have a responsibility to do that.
Then when you put it in context of where that funding is now: We have the largest endowment of all HBCUs at $750 million. The institutions that we’re competing with for students are in the Ivy League, and you’ve got Ivy League schools with endowments between $20 billion and $40 billion. If they take 5 percent of their endowment and put it into operating expenses, which is what most of our endowments do, they will be spending $2 billion. With $2 billion, you run my institution with $750 million of operating revenue; you double my endowment with another $750 million; and the other $500 million is gravy; you probably build five buildings. That’s just to put it into context, what spending 5 percent of their endowment in one year would do to Howard, and Howard is at the extreme in terms of financial resources of all the HBCUs. It is a danger to the national interest to not invest in these institutions.
Fredericks’ point about the lack of Black doctors, surgeons, etc. is crucial. Racial bias in healthcare has had drastic effects on Black women no matter their income or status. With a dearth of African American providers, communities of color are at greater risk of substandard care, which in turn can lead to fatal outcomes. In politics, entertainment, and every other venue imaginable, we've seen that diversity has incredibly positive effects.
For the Nets and NBA, Black History Month is an opportunity to draw attention to issues affecting the community while providing the people who do the front line work a platform to share their successes as well as ideas on where improvements can be made. Whether in the arena, park, classroom, and anywhere you can think of, having a full understanding of Black history is of the utmost importance.
There's also room for fun. The team is also planning to hold nights focusing on Black fashion and music from the Carribean. If done right, it can open fans up to new perspectives and things that they don't get to take in very often. It should be fun.