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HBCUs produce their fair share of celebrities

By GAIL SHARPLIS
On February 24, 2011

  • Politician Alicia Reece is a Grambling alumna. File photo
  • Writer Judi Ann Mason was a Grambling alumna. File photo
  • Entertainer Erykah Badu is aGrambling alumna. File photo

Historically Black Colleges and Universities are often thought of as being mediocre, especially those who consider Blacks intellectually inferior. A few HBCUs throughout the United States have been struggling with the issue of accreditation, falling enrollment and lack of sufficient funds to run these schools. These colleges and universities are faced with several criticisms and as a result, a negative image which illustrates that nothing good can come from HBCUs is painted.HBCUs were established with the intention of serving the black community; however, their doors have always been open to all.

There are 105 HBCU institutions in America today. Twenty-seven of the HBCUs offer doctoral programs and 52 provide graduate degree programs at the master's level. At the undergraduate level, 83 of the HBCUs offer a bachelor's degree program and 38 of these schools offer associate degrees.

Many of the HBCU critics are ignorant of the fact that they have educated and nurtured celebrities in the United States because HBCUs are usually only well known for the success of athletes.

Oprah Winfrey, who is one of America's most famous and rich females, is an alumna of Tennessee State University, an HBCU. Winfrey is an example of success and a role model to millions of people worldwide.

Radio show host Tom Joyner and filmmaker Spike Lee are also products of HBCUs.

It may appear that Winfrey, Joyner and Lee are the only successful celebrities who have attended HBCUs; however, research has revealed that there are several celebrities in various fields around the United States, and they have all attended an HBCU. Although they may not be as famous as the aforementioned celebrities, each one is successful in his/her field.

Some of these celebrities are: Taraji Henson, an actress and singer who attended Howard University; Wanda Sykes, a writer, stand-up comedian and actress who attended Hampton University; Randy Jackson, a bassist, singer, record producer, music manager, A&R executive and television personality, who attended Southern University; Matthew Knowles, a music executive and manager who attended Fisk University; and Lonnie Rashied Lynn, Jr. (Common) a hip- hop artist and actor who attended Florida A and M.

In addition to the aforementioned celebrities, there were a few celebrities, politicians and many educators who attended Grambling State University. Erykah Badu and Judi Ann Mason both attended Grambling State University.

Badu, whose birth name is Erica Abi Wright was born on Feb 26, 1971, in South Dallas, Texas. She decided to change the spelling of her biological name at an early age, because she believed that the original spelling was that of a slave. Erykah has been successful both in her music and acting careers and is well known for many of her albums throughout the years.

She appeared in the films Blues Brothers 2000, The Cider House Rules, House of D, Before the Music Dies, and Dave Chappelle's Block Party. Badu also appeared in scenes of the music video of Miko Marks' 2006 recording "Mama" and Common's video for "The Light" as well as making a special appearance on the sitcom Girlfriends.

Badu made 34 albums during the years 1997-2010.

Mason was an American television writer, producer and playwright. Mason was born in Bossier City on Feb 2, 1955. She started her professional writing career while she attended Grambling State University. She majored in theatre.

Mason won several awards throughout her life for writing and for her plays. She won the Norman Lear Award for comedy writing from the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for her play, Livin' Fat, while attending Grambling. Mason also won the Lorraine Hansberry Playwriting Award for A Star Ain't Nothin' But A Hole In Heaven.

The New York Times said that Mason had created "captivating characters" in her play. She was named one of Glamour Magazines' Top Ten College women in 1977.

Mason also taught playwriting and screenwriting at a number of colleges and universities for over 20 years.

Her television writing credits include Good Times, Sanford and Son, A Different World, Beverly Hills, 90210, I'll Fly Away, American Gothic, Generations, and Guiding Light. She is also renowned for the Emmy Award/CableACE Award nominated Sophie And The Moonhanger. Her stage play credits include The Cornbread Man and Indigo Blues.
Mason passed away at the age of 54 on July 8, 2009.

Politician Alicia Reece is an alumna of Grambling State University where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, with a concentration in public relations and minored in Spanish.

Rep. Reece is a long-time public servant who has held many roles on behalf of the citizens of Ohio. Before her appointment to the Ohio House, she served as Vice mayor of Cincinnati from 2002-2006 and was a City Councilwoman for the eight years prior.

During this time, she advocated for women's health legislation, racial profiling litigation, public safety, small business tax reform, and an improved tourism industry in the Greater Cincinnati Area.

There are also many alumni of Grambling State University who are educators as well employees in different departments on campus.

HBCUs have produced and will continue to produce prominent people in the society who will have an impact on the lives of all concerned.


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