Sometimes, all you need is an opportunity.

With that in mind, CBS Sports is sponsoring the third annual HBCU All-Star Game at Grand Canyon University on April 7, as the eyes of the basketball world are fixed on Phoenix for the men’s Final Four.

Historically Black colleges and universities “are some of the most proud, prestigious and tradition-rich colleges and universities across the country,” said Travis Williams, the game’s founder and driving force.

“We have some amazing students and student-athletes and some of our most brilliant coaches who don’t often get the national recognition or shine they deserve.”

It’s important for the state of Arizona, the West and the nation.

HBCUs are a vital training ground for the next generation of Black professionals, providing knowledge, skills and identity for young people who have much to contribute in a world that often tries to shut them out.

They have a legacy that goes back to slavery, segregation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings and Black Codes, back before the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance, “Double V for Victory,” the Freedom Rides, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

It’s a legacy that gave rise to Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King and Kamala Harris.

Yet there still are people who have no clue what it means to attend an HBCU — especially in Arizona, which has none.

There are more than 100 historically Black colleges and universities, mostly across the Deep South, but as far north as Ohio and as far west as Texas.

Federal law defines them as schools having been established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with a primary mission of educating Black students.

This question amazes me.

Does anyone ask whether students at BYU are required to be members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Or whether students at Notre Dame must be Catholic? Or whether students at Brandeis have to be Jewish?

Almost a quarter of all HBCU students in 2022 were non-Black, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Williams answers this quite well, saying “HBCUs were started when we didn’t have any other places to go.”

The first HBCU was Cheyney University, established in 1837 near Philadelphia.

At the time, about 30 years before the end of the Civil War, the education of Black students was banned in the South and discouraged in the North, according to HBCU First, a mentorship academy aimed at supporting Black students.

“By and large,” HBCU First states, “the first HBCUs were established to educate the children of formerly enslaved people and train them to teach other African Americans.”

In other words, Black people weren’t looking for a handout; they were looking to take care of themselves.

Chris “Truth B. Told” Owens, a Phoenix-based spoken-word poet and community activist who runs CultureHUB, a coworking and event space geared toward Phoenix’s growing Black community, said, “I wouldn’t mind that, if all of our stories were being told properly.

“The reason HBCUs exist in the first place is out of necessity because some white folks didn’t want us to go to school. In fact, this was during the time where reading (as a Black person) could get you killed.”

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Owens, who attended Southern and Kentucky State, plans to use CultureHUB for HBCU All-Star Game companion events. He said these institutions help “protect and elevate” Black students through fostering “a greater understanding of self and a greater respect for the myriad experiences we have under the umbrella of Blackness.”

“If it wasn’t for my relationship with HBCUs and having attended HBCUs,” Owens said, “CultureHUB would not exist.”

There are still plenty of societal obstacles that are unique Black people, these schools help make them easier to navigate.

This game creates vital exposure.

There are plenty of Black students in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and other major cities across the West who could benefit greatly from the cultural immersion offered at HBCUs, but they might not even consider these as an option since there aren’t any out West.

Maybe. HBCUs have turned out all-time greats like Ben Wallace and Earl Monroe. But it looks like they’re being underscouted these days.

“There are 450 NBA players, 30 NBA teams,” Williams said. “There’s only one active HBCU player, Robert Covington of the Philadelphia 76ers. … We need more opportunities like this game on a national stage.”

Aside from the game, Williams is hosting a workout for NBA scouts to get a look at the selected players.

Good question. There shouldn’t be any reason that there’s not a Big 12 All-Star Game for players whose teams don’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament or are eliminated before the Final Four. Same for the Big Ten, SEC or any other conference.

Probably conference commissioners just never thought of it.

This is the value of diversity.

A guy like Williams, a former coach at Tennessee State (an HBCU), saw a problem based on his experiences and created a money-making solution that helps everyone.

GCU will have a full arena, the city of Phoenix will get an influx of tourist dollars, HBCUs will get exposure and players will get an opportunity to show what they can do.

And sometimes, all you need is an opportunity.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @SayingMoore.

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Phoenix all-star game gives HBCUs much-needed exposure

27 1
29.03.2024

Sometimes, all you need is an opportunity.

With that in mind, CBS Sports is sponsoring the third annual HBCU All-Star Game at Grand Canyon University on April 7, as the eyes of the basketball world are fixed on Phoenix for the men’s Final Four.

Historically Black colleges and universities “are some of the most proud, prestigious and tradition-rich colleges and universities across the country,” said Travis Williams, the game’s founder and driving force.

“We have some amazing students and student-athletes and some of our most brilliant coaches who don’t often get the national recognition or shine they deserve.”

It’s important for the state of Arizona, the West and the nation.

HBCUs are a vital training ground for the next generation of Black professionals, providing knowledge, skills and identity for young people who have much to contribute in a world that often tries to shut them out.

They have a legacy that goes back to slavery, segregation, reconstruction, Jim Crow, lynchings and Black Codes, back before the Civil War, the Harlem Renaissance, “Double V for Victory,” the Freedom Rides, the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

It’s a legacy that gave rise to Thurgood Marshall, Martin Luther King and Kamala Harris.

Yet there still are people who have no clue what it means to attend an HBCU — especially in Arizona, which has none.........

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