Dear President Dillard:
The National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO), and the NAFEO Nation-105 HBCUs and 80 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) salute you and Shaw University on the website launching of the Shaw Center for Racial & Social Justice.
I am looking forward to participating in the convening tomorrow, the national website launch for the Center for Racial & Social Justice under your dynamic leadership. It is no accident that the website and Center are being launched at a time in which America is in undergoing some of the tyrannical and anti-democratic challenges reminiscent of the times in which Shaw was founded. How nicely the Shaw Center for Racial and Social Justice and its website will align with the founders’ vision for Shaw: preparing leaders to mold and advance a more just and inclusive society.
The beauty of the history of Shaw is its focus on what lies within. In founding Raleigh Institute, Dr. Henry Martin Tupper sought to transform minds and save souls—prepare servant leaders for the future by focusing on what lay ahead and within.
Dr. Henry Martin Tupper—a missionary who served in the Union Army as a private and a Chaplain was a wise man chosen by God to serve Him as a fighter for freedom and enlightenment. Tupper was a man of love who rebuffed hatred; a “communitarian” who understood that we are all One– that we are interconnected and interdependent and that the plight of all men and women is inextricably intertwined.
Dr. Henry Martin Tupper was a freedom fighter of his day who renounced the scourge of slavery, the barbarism of bigotry and the repugnance of racism. The Shaw Center for Racial and Social Justice will teach lessons of the underpinnings of Shaw that are essential for such times as these, and that are certain to make the Shaw Center one of the premier centers for racial and social justice—the planning, strategizing and executing grounds for preparing the next cohort of justice janissaries and advancing a more peaceful, just, and inclusive America.
Dr. Tupper fought for liberty and justice; and fought against the tyranny of slavery. He was a man of great faith and unfaltering courage who in the face of grave danger dared to found the Raleigh Institute in 1865 —the very first private co-educational liberal arts historically Black university in the South. The Shaw leaders who followed in the footsteps of Tupper prepared Shaw to lead and shape leaders who would denounce tyrannical leaders, those who spew and advance bigotry, those who fight to destroy democracy and promote injustice, in the manner in which too many leaders today use their platforms for pernicious purposes and to destroy the peace and sanctity of our institutions, our families and communities.
As the first HBCU to accept African American women, and the college campus at which a female, Ella Baker, founded the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Shaw history foretold this moment in time when Shaw would inaugurate a global center for racial and social justice. How blessed are we that you, Dr. Dillard, had the vision and the ability to bring together all of the pieces that brought us this important center for all times, but especially for such times as these. And, how wonderful is it that Dr. Bakari Sellers, the son of Dr. Cleveland Sellers, also a leader of SNCC and a Shaw alumnus, will be the keynote speaker for the website launch of the Center. Dr. Bakari Sellers is a transformative justice leader in his own right. SNCC was, of course, founded amid efforts to disenfranchise thousands of Black North Carolina voters. Today we are experiencing similar efforts across the nation, with measures to shorten the early voting period by a week; measures to require already registered voters to show a photo ID before voting; and measures to eliminate a voter’s choice to vote a straight ticket and a number of other voter suppression efforts.
Tomorrow, as Shaw University hosts the website launch of its Center for Racial and Social Justice, and it begins to harness the underpinnings, the offerings, and excellence and diversity of the administrators, faculty, staff, researchers, students, families, alumni, and supporters, to ensure a more just, inclusive, peaceful, competitive and civil society, Shaw must include on its initial agenda, innovative ways and means of staving off Twenty-first Century voter suppression laws, regulations, fiats, and tactics, that threaten to take us back to the days when in 1960, Ella Baker founded SNCC at Shaw University, and the days of the Post-Reconstruction era.
NAFEO and I look forward to continuing to support Shaw University and its Center for Racial and Social justice, in any manner of means.
With best wishes,
Lezli Baskerville, Esquire, HBS
President & CEO
National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) The Voice for Blacks in Higher Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W..
E• Washington, DC 20024