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Monday, May 20, 2024

IBE made a mistake with ‘Classic’ college fair

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Prior to Monday’s first presidential debate of the season, the Indianapolis Recorder and Radio One partnered on an unprecedented event. Our Indiana gubernatorial forum was the first time all three candidates gathered. What made the event unprecedented is it was the first time the state’s two premier African-American media entities collaborated to host a gubernatorial forum that focused specifically on the issues and concerns of African-Americans. In addition, Radio One broadcast the forum live across all its stations and reached more than 400,000 people.

Our primary objective was to ask the candidates questions specific to African-Americans. Unfortunately, too often, the perspectives of Blacks are either misrepresented or underrepresented. Either way can be damaging to our community.

We set out to address key issues of concern for the minority community, and we accomplished that. The forum was a great success, and it was wonderful to partner with Radio One in such a significant effort. Thank you to all who supported our effort.

***

Another weekend of Circle City Classic has come and gone. I’ve heard that the parade — a longtime favorite of mine — was a crowd pleaser. One woman I spoke with said her favorite part of the parade is “always seeing the young kids dancing.” It was a sweet moment to see the look in the lady’s eyes as she reminisced on previous Classic parades.

After I spoke with the woman, I was in a nostalgic mood. I remember participating in the parade as a representative for my junior high school. It was that year that I fell in love with Jackson State University.

Since both my parents attended Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), I knew I, too, would attend, but I wanted to go somewhere different from them. The following year, I attended the Indianapolis Black Alumni Council’s (IBAC) HBCU College Fair. There were so many options!

I met a JSU recruiter there, and while I was still too young for college at the time, I kept all the brochures. When it was time to actually select a school, Jackson State was my choice, hands down.

As I reflected on this past Classic weekend, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the numerous conversations I had with multiple people who were upset about Classic hosting an Education Day College Fair on Saturday. The people I spoke with were upset because they felt the effort was completely disrespectful to the college fair that IBAC hosts every year.

I agreed.

I asked Indiana Black Expo’s President Tanya Bell the reasoning behind the organization’s decision to host an education fair two days after IBAC’s college fair.

“Many groups that attended Education Day were from out of town that participated in Classic over the weekend but could not attend IBAC’s college fair on Thursday or Friday,” said Bell. “We encouraged all of our out of state bands and youth groups that participated in our parade on Saturday to attend the Education Day before the game. We also partnered with many groups that provided transportation for the students to attend the game and the fair provided more substance for the field trips.”

Bell continued, “Unlike IBAC’s college fair, our Education Day was open to traditional colleges and universities. About 36 colleges and universities participated.”

Having choices can be beneficial to everyone — especially students — but I’m not sure an Education Day college fair was the choice needed at that particular time, as it wasn’t necessarily a void that needed to be filled, since IBAC has successfully hosted 37 consecutive HBCU college fairs.

I hadn’t realized that IBAC’s college fair existed three years prior to the formation of Circle City Classic. Upon researching, I learned that one of IBE’s founders, Rev. Charles Williams, was so impressed with IBAC’s annual HBCU fair that he thought it would be good to include a game that featured two HBCU teams.

It was a match made in heaven, and it underscored the importance of supporting Black schools. The two entities also exposed Indiana students to Black colleges throughout the nation, something that youth previously didn’t have such large-scale exposure to.

Members of IBE and IBAC have conflicting perspectives on how this year’s Classic college fair came to be: IBE says IBAC was fully aware and supportive of their efforts, but various IBAC members said that’s not the case. IBAC President Larry Dunlap says that claim is “false, and it is an insult. It is something we truly think was inappropriate, and I am appalled.”

In recent years, IBE and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis partnered to host a college fair or some sort of education initiative during the winter months — a time that didn’t compete with IBAC’s fair. This year, 100 Black Men partnered with IBE on Education Day, and members of the community shared with me their disappointment with The 100 over the organization’s involvement.

No one can stop an organization from hosting an event of their choice, but IBE and 100 Black Men of Indianapolis should have given more consideration to the historic and impactful impact of IBAC’s efforts over the years. Indiana students have significantly more access to traditionally white Indiana colleges and universities than they do HBCUs. Classic’s annual event is rooted in Black colleges, so that should have been the central focus this year, as in years past. Duplicating what IBAC has successfully done for nearly 40 years was unnecessary and divisive. IBAC noticed, the public noticed, and even some HBCU recruiters noticed and commented on the confusion, tension and lackluster attempt to be inclusive during a time that is supposed to promote and expose attendees to HBCUs.

I’m sure some will take this editorial as a slam against IBE and the 100 Black Men, which is not my intent. However, it is my intent to honestly reflect the perspectives of the community the Recorder serves. In doing so, I can also inject my opinion.

IBAC’s annual HBCU College Fair was a huge success its first three years, and that success has continued and enhanced Circle City Classic for the past 34 years. Indiana Black Expo and the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis should have left well enough alone. IBAC has stellar relationships with HBCUs, youth are exposed to the historic schools year after year, and neither IBE nor The 100 had to lift a finger. As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Hopefully in the future, IBE and The 100 won’t try to “fix” another college fair that directly conflicts with an already trusted and proven event that promotes Black colleges and provides opportunities for our community’s Black youth.

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