Activists Bring Issue Of Inequality In Education for African Americans to the UN

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African Americans Seek Education Rights at the UN

On May 7th, just prior to the May 11th UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the United States, an African American delegation will hold a side-session at the UN's Palais des Nations in Geneva, titled Empowering Black Colleges:  International Law, African American Development and Self-determination.

The session will elaborate the case for the empowerment of Historically Black Colleges and Universities as a historic legacy, domestic entitlement and the international minority right of the African American people in the face of US Department of Education policies, cutbacks, rollbacks and state discrimination against Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

HBCUs are institutions of higher education that were established in the United States before 1967 with the intent of serving the African American community. As such, they have traditionally been economic drivers of African American communities, addressing not only the educational needs of students, but creating and sustaining a professional and business elite with strong community ties and commitment to community development and the unique African American cultural heritage.  They currently represent about 3% of colleges in the U.S. but enroll 12% of all students who identify as black or African Americans.  They produce 23% of all Black college graduates, and confer a striking 40% of African American STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine) degrees, and a full 60% of engineering degrees.  They also educate half of the country’s African American teachers and 40% of all African American health professionals.

It is estimated that, due to various US policies which have disproportionately impacted HBCUs, their numbers will drastically decline from the over 100 institutions presently existing to only a few elite institutions.  Already the colleges have been severely impacted, losing some $160 million as the regulations governing federal student loans to parents hit African American families hard.

Significantly, the US Department of Education has just acknowledged that its 2011 changes to the Parent Plus Program did indeed damage HBCUs. See “ED Data Verify Damage Done to HBCUs”.

The US Universal Periodic Review comes not just at a time of crisis for HBCUs, but also at a time of public outrage at the serial killings of innocent Black men by police habituated to impunity, and not least, of African American realization that the expected benefits of having a Black President in office have not been forthcoming.

It also comes at a time of startling new strides forward in the struggle to empower HBCUs:  the creation of an HBCU Congressional Caucus.

The International Human Rights Association of American Minorities (IHRAAM), an international NGO in consultative status with the United Nations since 1993, is sponsor of the side-session, and lead sponsor among 7 other cosponsors, of an Alternative Report on the issue to the UN HRC submitted in September 2014.

The side-session will be held in Room XXIII of the Palais des Nations, between 1:00-3:00, on May 7, 2015.



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