I don't remember exactly what I was doing when I saw the newscast of Dr. Dre walking the campus of USC with Jimmy Iovine with a headline that read something like "BIG DONATION". I do, however, remember thinking that it was a generous gift and hoping that Dre had required stipulations that would insure that kids from his native Compton might have more access to the USC campus, which currently sports a miniscule African American population. Little did I know the furor that would soon arise from educators such as Dr. Walter Kimbrough and Dr. Boyce Watkins.
Until he decides to write his tell all book, we're not going to know much about educational aspirations Dre might've had when he was younger. As someone who has spent almost a decade nowon the West Coast , I can say with confidence that he didn't grow up with the same romanticized notions of HBCUs that I did. As a youngster in Philly, I was raised by parents who were tied to a network of HBCU alums. My father went to Cheyney, and I also grew up around folks who went to Howard (my aunt), Morehouse, Spelman, Lincoln. There was a familiarity with these schools because so many of the influential adults in my life had attended them and a push that you got to experience a particularly cool slice of Black Americana if you went to one. So I grew up wanting to go to Morehouse. Had their swim team been a little better, I might be a "Morehouse Man" today. I wanted to experience what I saw in movies like School Daze and shows like A Different World. What I've come to understand more clearly as an adult raising kids in Cali is that it is hard to immerse them in that atmosphere when there's not an HBCU within 300 miles. So I can hardly blame Dre that when he was approached about the idea of giving his money to a school, neither Dillard, nor Howard, nor Alcorn State crossed his mind. This action speaks to a continuing shift in the centrality of race in identity expression for many minorities. It appears that many from a previous generation like Dr. Kimbrough are having trouble catching up.
Dr. Kimbrough is right in his letter where he asserts that it would have been nice for Dre to reach back and offer some of his charity to underserved communities like Compton which have helped make him so popular, but he doesn't owe them that. The man is rightly trying to create a legacy that his kids kids can benefit from and who can blame him? As race shifts from the center of identity focus for many minorities in this country, socioeconomic status seems to be the heir apparent. It is made clearer everyday that if you cannot somehow elbow your way into the 1% in this country, you've got a tough road to navigate because increasingly it's not paved with opportunity. If those who are tasked with leading HBCUs like Dr. Kimbrough want to boost their endowments to the levels of the historically "elite" schools in the country, then perhaps they should do a better job of marketing their institutions and making it clear to the Dr. Dre's, and Jay-Z's of the world why it's in their benefit to do so. The era where shared skin color is the great motivator have long ended.
On Another Note:
- Good to see somebody finally got to President Obama about wreckless drone use
- Can we please stop being distracted by what the President says or does not say in a commencement speech and focus on finding a policy around which to rally for change? (ex: housing, education, law enforcement)