Archive for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Allstate’s Cheryl Harris and Her Passion for HBCU’s

Posted in African Americans, Black America, Black Interests with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Gary Johnson


By Gary A. Johnson, Black Men In

I was in the middle of writing an article on how the Obama administration is not a friend of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Under this administration the number of PLUS loans granted was cut in half. This policy changed forced 28,000 HBCU students to drop out, and cost schools $150 million. And then I was presented the opportunity to interview Cheryl A. Harris, Allstate Insurance Senior Vice President of Sourcing and Procurement Solutions.

Ms. Harris is a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU). She wanted to discuss Allstate’s Quotes For Education Program, an initiative established in 2009 to raise scholarship funds for financially struggling students attending HBCUs.

Currently there is a growing rate of HBCU students who are forced to withdraw from their academic programs due to financial hardships. In an effort to create additional scholarship opportunities Allstate has partnered with the Tom Joyner Foundation for the Allstate Quotes for Education program.

Under this program Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions Quotes for Education from now through Nov. 30. In addition, for the third year in a row, everyone will also have a chance to cast their vote for the HBCU of their choice to receive an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding. In 2013, Grambling State University received the most votes and distributed scholarship funds to students in need.

People can click here or on this link and vote and check the “Leaderboard.” You have 10 days left!

As of Thursday, November 19th, the top 5 colleges on the Leaderboard are:

• #1 Grambling State University
• #2 Southern University A&M College
• #3 Tennessee State University
• #4 Florida A&M University
• #5 Alabama A&M University


Cheryl Harris also talked about role modeling, the advantages of attending HBCUs and more. Here are some highlights from our interview: Is Allstate’s involvement with HBCUs a result of the Obama administration’s funding cuts for Historically Black Colleges and Universities?

Cheryl Harris: “Yes, it’s the administration’s cut in funding; the state’s cut in funding, its parents who don’t have the financial wherewithal or ability to keep their children in school. We had about 28,000 students who dropped out of school in 2012. That’s a big number when you think about it. The purpose of this program is to raise money to keep kids in school. We have a really strong partnership with the Tom Joyner Foundation to maximize the number of dollars that we can make available to the foundation and ultimately to the students.” We understand that Allstate Insurance will donate $10, up to a total of $200,000, for every person who gets a quote from an Allstate Insurance Agent and mentions “Quotes for Education.” Is this true?

Cheryl Harris: “That is correct. As of today, we’re at $190,000. I hope that you are familiar with an additional component of the program, where Allstate will award an additional $50,000 in scholarship funding when you vote for the HBCU of their choice. The promotion ends at the end of the month. We want people to visit and vote for the HBCU of their choice. We want people to get online and have family, friends, colleagues and business partners vote for the HBCU of their choice. When you think about the roles of HBCUs, FAMU and all of our HBCUs have played an important part in our nation’s history. Participating in this program is a very easy set of things to do to make a difference in the lives of students who deserve to go to school and graduate from HBCUs. I’m very authentic and passionate about my involvement in this program. I’m happy to be working for a company that cares about giving back to the community.” What’s the best part of being Cheryl A. Harris?

Cheryl Harris: “To understand my response to this question you have to understand me. I’m from Chicago born to an unwed mother at 16. Statistically I’m not supposed to be in this spot. History was supposed to repeat itself and I was supposed to be an unwed mother with about 10 kids right now. The goodness about being me is that I believe I’m in a position to give others hope that have lost hope and let people see that there is possibility if they want to achieve. I feel good about that every day to know that I beat the system and I’m in a spot where I can motivate and encourage others to do the same. We talk about the lack of role models in our community, in particular for African American men. I think when you see how HBCU alums come together to be those role models, it excites me to wake up and think about all the possibilities for the next generation of leaders, the next generation of African Americans. I get to wake up and do this every day because I’m appreciated at Allstate. People thank me for doing this. It feels good to be able to give back. That’s what it’s like to be me. I’m married and have 5 kids at home. We’re taking our first one away for a college visit in January and the first place we’re going is FAMU. I’m all about living and I want to make sure that my actions back up my beliefs every single day.” What else do we need to know about this Allstate program and HBCUs?

Cheryl Harris: “If people can spend 1 minute to vote online, you can help us; help a deserving school win $50,000 to keep our students in school. That’s one. I still encourage people to support Allstate by getting a quote. My goal every year is to max out what we can give so I can ask for more. I feel good about what Allstate does. We’re not doing it for marketing; we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. Having consumers support Allstate is important because we are walking the talk. We live it, we breath it, we do it. We know that there are students out there who will be able to complete their education because of this program and that’s a very important thing that we all need to take to heart. Go to and vote for the HBCU of their choice. It makes a difference.” Thank you Cheryl Harris.

Cheryl Harris: Thank you Gary.

Thank you to Samantha Falchook from TAYLOR (Public Relations & Strategy) for arranging this interview.

First There Was Tavis, Then There Was Tom

Posted in African Americans, Barack Obama, Black Interests, Black Men, Black Men In America, Gary A. Johnson, Politics, President Barack Obama, Racism with tags , , , , , , , , on October 25, 2011 by Gary Johnson

By Gary A. Johnson

I don’t know what to make of nationally syndicated radio show personality Tom Joyner.  I don’t consider Joyner an intellectual lightning rod, however, the morning deejay also known as “The Fly Jock,” reportedly has approximately 8 million listeners to his radio show.  If those numbers are correct, then Joyner’s radio show reaches one in four black American adults.  This commentary is about Joyner’s blog post a few months ago that has recently been getting mainstream media attention.

I have decided to separate Joyner’s philanthropic and fundraising efforts for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) from this commentary.  His work in that area is unparalleled.

Joyner’s syndicated radio show is part news and a lot more entertainment in my view.  That being said, Joyner continues to make news headlines with an old blog posting (July 2011) where he essentially told Black America to vote for President Obama simply because he is black.  Whoa!  Joyner’s position does raise some political and philosophical issues.

In 2008, the election of a black President of the United States of America changed the political landscape.  What happened to evaluating a candidate based on his or her record of performance and how the issues outlined in the campaign impact you and your family?  To his credit, Joyner stated that we are all not “like-minded,” but went to write that we need to have a common goal in this election and that goal is to make sure that President Obama is re-elected.  Joyner understands that we have the right to vote for whomever we want; he just thinks that not voting for President Obama is not a good use of your vote.

There is something about Joyner’s stance that doesn’t sit well with me.  Joyner is not alone.  Former syndicated radio host Bev Smith, reportedly has urged listeners to vote for President Obama based on his race.

Does Joyner and company realize that President Obama did not win the 2008 election based on the black vote alone?  Blacks voted in record numbers, but a whole lot of independent voters of all races, cast their vote for him too.  Voting for President Obama just because he is black is a very dangerous and slippery slope.  Some of my colleagues are ready to throw Joyner under the bus for this position.  I have him resting comfortably in front of the rear wheels of the bus while the the motor is running.  My foot is on the brake and the transmission in 1st gear.

What would the Freedom Riders and the hundreds of other black and white civil rights leaders of the past have to say to Joyner if they had the chance?  I wonder if they would agree with his position.

The reality is President Obama was able to win the historic election in 2008, not solely because blacks turned out in huge numbers, but because many whites, Latinos and other races supported him as well. To suggest that blacks support him just because of the color of his skin is just wrong. It’s dangerous. Tom Joyner has done a lot for the black community and I won’t throw him under a bus, but I am very disappointed by his comments rallying blacks to support President Obama on the basis of his race. Blacks should support Obama because they agree with his stance on the issues and that he best personifies their needs. I would urge each voter to take the time to do some research on where all the candidates stand on the issues that affect you the most. If President Obama is the one whose views are similar to yours, then vote for him come November 2012.

If you look down the proverbial “re-election bench” you will see the Rev. Al Sharpton (who has a television show on the MSNBC network) suited up and echoing the same message.  During the dedication of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, DC in October 2011, Joyner and Sharpton were saying that President Obama should be judged not on the content of his character and policies but rather on the color of his skin.  WTF?  When you vote for President Obama because he is black, doesn’t that fly in the face of those in the civil rights movement who marched and died for us to have choices and the right to vote?

My very unscientific poll reflects that not everyone is on the Tom Joyner bandwagon.  If you injected President Obama with truth serum I’m not sure he would say, “Vote for me just because I’m Black.”

In his blog Joyner writes:  “Let’s not even deal with the facts right now.  Let’s deal with just our blackness and pride – and loyalty.  We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man. There are a great number of people who are against him because he’s a black man. That should be enough motivation for us to band together and get it done. We have the chance to re-elect the first African-American president, and that’s what we ought to be doing. And I’m not afraid or ashamed to say that as black people, we should do it because he’s a black man. There are a great number of people who are against him because he’s a black man. That should be enough motivation for us to band together and get it done.”

How about assessing this President based on what he inherited coming into office and how he has performed for example in the areas of foreign policy, the economy, health care, managing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan while in office?  As adults our assessments will differ but at least we have the chance to consider a number of situations.  I would suggest that all citizens ask themselves the following question:  “Am I better off now than when President Barack Obama took office?”  Some will say, “Yes” and others will say “No.”  If you answered, “No” to this question, and you believe that President Obama has underperformed, there is nothing wrong with evaluating the President’s performance and deciding that in order to improve your circumstances you might vote for someone else.

Black unemployment is 16.7 percent, the highest it’s been in almost 30 years.  You may determine that voting for President Obama is in the best interest of you and your family and cast your vote for him in 2012.  The point I’m trying to make is that all of us should take the time to think and evaluate all the factors that matter to us and cast your vote accordingly.

Click here to read Tom Joyner’s commentary.

Gary A. Johnson is the Founder & Publisher of Black Men In a popular online magazine on the Internet and the Black Men In Blog. Gary is also the author of the new book “25 Things That Really Matter In Life.” 


Posted in Black America, Black Men, Black Men In America with tags , , , on October 9, 2011 by Gary Johnson

Raynard Jackson

Howard University, in Washington, DC, is one of the elite Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in the U.S.  Howard students are quick to call their school the “real H U!”  The reason is so they won’t be confused with another well know HBCU—Hampton University.

But after years of frustrating experiences with Howard University, I have come to the conclusion that they are truly the “real H U.”  But, in this case, the H U stands for “Horrible University.”

Over the years, I have regularly presented Howard and its student’s opportunities to make money and to further the mission of their school—to educate Black students.

Last week, I was called by a friend and asked to find 2 law students she could interview for internships in her government agency.  I told her I would call Howard’s law school and have them call her.  I talked with a woman in their career placement office and she said she would call my friend.  A week later and my friend still has not heard from the school.

So, 2 days ago, I decided to call George Washington University’s Law School (GW)—a predominantly white school in Washington, DC.  I told them I needed two Black law students to consider for internships.  Less than an hour later, my friend was contacted by GW and 2 lucky students are on the verge of getting an internship!

If my negative experience with Howard was an isolated incident, then I could shrug it off to a thing called life—sometimes things happen.  But, this is not the case.

Earlier this year, I called the president of Howard University and offered the school a chance to be the venue for a series of Republican presidential candidates town hall forums.  I am still waiting for them to give me an answer.

Several years ago, a friend of mine who owned all the Dominoes Pizzas in this area, offered to give the school a free franchise that the students could run.  The only stipulation was that the school donates the space.  According to our calculations, each student would have earned about   $ 10,000 per year.  I have yet to get a response from the school, almost 10 years later!

So, yes Howard, you are the “real H U–” horrible university!  So, Howard, you win.  I will not attempt to provide any further opportunities to the school, nor its students.

Howard University has a storied past, but not such a storied present.  Howard has got to be the worst run HBCU in the country.  I had this conversation with a current student at Howard yesterday at a restaurant and she agreed with me 100%.

To Howard and its students, why can I never seem to get a simple response when I try to present opportunities to you?  Even if you are not interested, a definitive response would have been appreciated.  But that seems too much to ask.  Yet, white institutions seem to respond immediately to any offer I present to them.

God has blessed me in many ways, so my only obligation is to reach out my hand, not attempt to make someone take my hand.

In the immortal words of Sir Winston Churchill, “To everyman (or organization) there comes a time when he is figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a great and might work; unique to him and fitted to his talents; what a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared or unqualified for the moment that could be his finest hour.”  Unfortunately, Howard University has been found both unprepared and unqualified!

Raynard Jackson is president & CEO of Raynard Jackson & Associates, LLC., a D.C.-public relations/government affairs firm.  He is also a contributing editor for ExcellStyle Magazine (, Freedom’s Journal Magazine (, and U.S. Africa Magazine (

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