Less than three months after Bowie State University received a bomb threat, Maryland’s oldest historical Black college and university received a visit from the country’s third highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives: House Majority Whip James Clyburn.
The South Carolina lawmaker, known as one of the major individuals that helped Joe Biden become president, visited Bowie State on Friday, April 1 to talk about the importance and future of HBCUs in America.
Clyburn highlighted several people who attended HBCUs currently in public office: Vice President Kamala Harris (Howard University); former Louisiana Rep. Cedric Richmond, now a senior adviser to Biden (Moorehouse College); and Clyburn attended South Carolina University.
A few Black legislators who are HBCU graduates chair standing committees in the House such as Rep. Gregory Meeks of New York (Howard University Law School), who chairs Foreign Affairs; and Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi (Tougaloo College), who chairs Homeland Security. Thompson also chairs the Select Committee to Investigate the Jan. 6 Attack on the United States Capitol.
“I point this out because I want you all to develop a different mindset…that you are in a very good place,” Clyburn said. “You have in very high places people whose backgrounds and experiences are exactly like yours. I want you to think about that as you go through your educational experience this year.”
One day before Clyburn’s visit to the suburban D.C. campus, the White House announced President Biden’s intent to appoint members to his Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Its goal: “increase the capacity of HBCUs to provide the highest-quality education to its students and continue serving as engines of opportunity.”
Two of the 18 people to serve are Prince George’s County natives: actress Taraji P. Henson, who graduated from Howard University, and Prince George’s public schools CEO Monica Goldson, who received her bachelor’s degree from Florida A&M University, a master’s degree at Bowie State and a doctorate from Howard.
On Friday, a nearly standing room-only crowd came to hear Clyburn and also deliver a few messages for him to take back to Capitol Hill.
When the school received a bomb threat in January, Julian Cavanaugh, 24, of Bowie was at the school’s WBSU radio station and used it as a safe zone for students.
“We let everybody know it was going to be ok and nothing bad was going to happen to us,” said Cavanaugh, a senior who works as the station’s program manager. “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. The Lord gives us his battles to the strongest people. That’s the strength we have here.”
Bowie State and other HBCUs affected by the bomb threats would be eligible to apply for funds to the U.S. Department of Education toward mental health services, campus safety or emergency management. The awards would range between $50,000 to $150,000 per school through the department’s “Project SERV (School Emergency Response to Violence).”
Back on the Bowie campus, Clyburn toured part of it that included the Student Center alongside Bowie State president Dr. Aminta Breaux, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro.
Kimberly Brooks, a 21-year-old senior from Beltsville who led the tour and works as the student CEO at Saxbys café on campus, hopes Clyburn would influence his colleagues to secure funding for the school toward programs such as theater.
“If [theater students] have more funding, they could have more productions instead of about three or four a year,” said Brooks, who will graduate in May with a degree in psychology. “It could help to do more community events and attract students who are interested in theater to see all the great opportunities we have on this campus.”