BY DANIELA RAYMOND
While no university is immune from gun violence, historically Black colleges and universities have faced unique challenges.
North Carolina A&T University, Miles College, Texas Southern University, Tennessee State University and Winston-Salem State University – these universities have more than one thing in common besides being historically Black colleges. All of these have had shooting incidents occur on or near their campuses.
However, not all of these occurrences involved students and, thankfully, not all of them ended with a death. For instance, there were gunshots during an off-campus house party close to Tennessee State University in Nashville in the middle of October leaving three individuals injured. Another shooting that happened off campus away from North Carolina A&T did not involve any students, although police told the media that it happened at a party “related” to homecoming.
It almost seems like every week there is a new tragedy amongst Black campuses. Historically Black universities are meant to be safe spaces where Black students can learn and gain new knowledge to push them forward in life. Instead, many walk around their campuses in fear.
In 2023 531 mass shootings occurred according to Gun Violence Archives. Since historically Black colleges are frequently more exposed to violent threats than predominantly white institutions, the recent tragedy in Jacksonville, Florida, which took three Black lives and started on an HBCU campus, has rocked the academic community. After pulling into the Edward Waters University parking lot, the gunman– a young, white man with swastikas emblazoned on his rifle.
In addition to mass shootings, the FBI has looked into more than 20 HBCUs around the nation that have received bomb threats just this year.
Over the course of 12 days this month, on-campus shootings have traumatized HBCUs. The Homecoming ceremony was canceled after four students were shot on the Morgan State University campus in Baltimore on Oct. 3. Five days later, on Homecoming weekend, two students were shot at Bowie State University, only 40 miles away. Not even two weeks later, Jaylen Burns, a student at Jackson State University, was shot and killed on school property in Mississippi on Oct. 15.
In spite of the feelings of emotion and anxiety sparked by the violence, many Black parents would rather allow their kids to experience a historically Black campus rather than pull them out of school.
Zanial Bennett has two kids both in college. Karver Bennet, his oldest child, is a junior at Claflin University and his younger brother, James, is a sophomore at SUNY Plattsburgh. Zanial said he was scared to hear about the rampant school shootings at HBCUs across the country but wouldn’t trade his son’s experience at an HBCU for anything.
“ I can see that times are dangerous, but they always have been and always will be,” Zanial Bennett said. “I think the real problem that needs to be addressed is with school security, we pay them to keep our kids safe and I think that’s the real issue.”
The experience gained at HBCUs is like no other, and the history is too important to be torn down by violence.
Many HBCUs have strengthened their security measures to maintain a safe campus environment by updating policies governing access, identifying potential weak points and boosting surveillance technologies. Whether for daily communications or emergency notifications, mass notification is a crucial instrument for all of these efforts.