Livingstone student and others from HBCUs speak at NC General Assembly

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 16, 2023

RALEIGH — Students from across North Carolina’s HBCUs held a press conference Wednesday with the North Carolina General Assembly and demanded legislators do more to support the colleges through adequate funding and by passing policies that respect the rights of students.

The students who spoke were HBCU Democracy Fellows from eight of the state’s 10 HBCUs, including Elizabeth City State University, Johnson C. Smith University, NC A&T State University, N.C. Central University, Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Winston-Salem State University and Salisbury’s own Livingstone College.

Lafayette Thompson, a student from Livingstone who attended the press conference, started his speech by listing names of famous graduates of HBCUs who have made an impact on the world, such as civil rights activists Julius Chambers, Jesse Jackson, Ella Baker and the first African-America mayor of Granite Quarry, Mary Ponds.

“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are critical to the journey of many black and brown students,” Thompson said. “Public and private HBCUs deserve a fair chance to survive, to be heard and to be valued.”

North Carolina’s HBCUs contribute over $1.7 billion to the state’s economy, Lafayette said, and help create jobs and sustain communities. He said he was not there just to convince legislators that HBCUs matter, but also that African American communities throughout North Carolina are as important.

“We deserve true investment in our Black communities. We deserve and need fair elections so that we can even stand a chance at having fair and equal representation,” he said.

Thompson specifically called out House Bill 40, which states that rioters at protests who cause property damage, serious bodily injury or death to others, including first responders, will now face a new level of felony charges. The North Carolina House of Representatives passed the bill with a veto-proof 75-43 majority on Wednesday Feb. 8. It will now head to the Senate.

Legislators who supported the bill said it is in response to the state’s widespread property damage that occurred during the 2020 riots following the murder of George Floyd. But opponents say the bill is racist, suppresses free speech and targets minority communities.

Thompson, along with several other students who gave speeches, echoed the views of the opponents of the bill.

“Bills like HB 40, that targets communities like mine, are a testament to how far we have drifted from having a democracy that is truly of, for and by the people,” he said.

“I pray that today is a reminder for every elected official and politician, (whether you are) Republican, Democrat or Independent, that historical black colleges and universities do have significant impact in our country and we do matter and we deserve a government that hears us all,” Thompson said.