On May 11, 2017, Cheyney University was targeted for murder by racism just outside Philadelphia as part of a plan to crush Black advancement by selling its land, cutting its staff, tearing down its buildings, and eliminating all of its NCAA sports teams, while drowning it in debt and causing it to lose its accreditation by using bureaucrats and appointees to do the execution.
It happened to Catto, who was a prominent voting rights and civil rights activist, on Election Day near his home at Eighth and South streets when a white man murdered him with two shots to the body. By the way, the artistic rendition shown above was included with this column because it is the only one based upon purported witness testimony during the 1877 trial. Unfortunately, it is not precisely accurate because, although it shows Catto with a gun, he was neither holding it in his hand nor displaying it when he was attacked. In fact, he had just purchased it minutes earlier for self-defense in response to relentless racist death threats. Moreover, it was unloaded.
I already know that many people, especially White folks, are rolling their eyes and saying Cheyney’s current and recent wounds are all self-inflicted. They’re claiming that its $60 million state loan debt and its $30 million federal financial aid debt and its mere 746 students are its own fault. But that’s not really true because it’s been the victim of racial discrimination for at least 116 years since 1901 (and actually earlier). Let me count the ways:
1901- While Cheyney was a stand-alone teacher training school, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania paid the full yearly tuition and stipend of $140 to white students to attend state-owned teacher training schools but paid only $25 to Cheyney students.
1969- The Commonwealth, as recently as 1969, was one of just ten states (including the usual suspects, namely Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, et al) determined by the U.S. Department of Education to have been blatantly discriminating against Blacks in higher education.
1983- It was not until 1983 that the Commonwealth, for the first time ever, finally submitted a formal anti-racial discrimination plan that was deemed acceptable by and to the U.S. Department of Education following repeated warranted rejections.
1999- At the insistence of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Commonwealth was compelled to “do the right thing” by signing a formal agreement to resolve then-unresolved issues regarding racial discrimination against Cheyney. However, that agreement has been breached by the Commonwealth and, as of 2017, those issues remain unresolved. As a result of that breach, the Commonwealth, since 1999, owed Cheyney at least $100 million as of 2015 (and obviously much more now in 2017).
Cheyney is in dire straits because of the Commonwealth’s documented and irrefutable racial discrimination. If the Commonwealth/PASSHE ends the racism, it’ll end Cheyney’s plight. Just pay us what you owe us as reparations in the form of debt forgiveness, attractive academic programs, student tutorial services, and other long-overdue and well-deserved essential resources.
There are many rumors and lots of misinformation being spread about Cheyney’s status and future. There are many alums, students, and supporters who want to help Cheyney. And the only way to dispel those rumors and correct that misinformation and provide that help is to attend a public meeting sponsored by Heeding Cheyney’s Call (HCC).
That meeting will be held on Monday, June 5 at 7:00 pm at Zion Baptist Church, Broad and Venango. By the way, HCC is making arrangements to have the meeting live-streamed on the internet for those who are unable to attend. Log onto HeedingCheyneysCall.org for more details.
In conclusion, Octavius Catto wants his Cheyney alumni family to avenge him by rescuing our historic institution. Are you gonna ignore him and allow his and our alma mater to be murdered?