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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.

It happened to Cheyney University — which, having been founded in 1837, is the oldest Black institution of higher learning in America- on the day that the Task Force (created by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s/PASSHE’s Board of Governors) met near Philadelphia on Cheyney’s campus. That was when the Task Force publicly presented a plan that purportedly and inexplicably is designed to save Cheyney by selling, cutting, tearing down, and eliminating, while ignoring the fact that it is drowning in debt and facing imminent loss of accreditation.

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.

I’m not ready to completely condemn the Task Force, at least not yet. I’m willing to give it a chance because it includes some people of good will who have sacrificed much for Cheyney. But I gotta give the “side eye” to anything connected with PASSHE because its treatment of Cheyney has been suspect to say the least. But it does seem to be kinda/sorta trying to do the right thing in order to keep Cheyney’s doors open. However, when the person who threw you down a deep hole by racially discriminating against you since 1901 (and earlier) now offers you a golden ladder, check to make sure it doesn’t have slippery oil on the rungs and sharp spikes at the bottom. You have to be really careful when the person who has been trying to destroy you for so long suddenly offers what appears to be a wonderful gift.

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?

Michael Coard, Esquire, can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD900AM.And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

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