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2A Coard
From left to right at Cheyney rally: U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, and Councilman David Oh. — Submitted photo

Before I finish that sentence, I gotta give a big shout-out to the approximately 100 persons who withstood nearly 100 degree heat on August 1 in the battle to save Cheyney University.

I also gotta give a big shout-out to the influential leaders who accepted the invitation from Heeding Cheyney’s Call (HCC), which organized the event. Those leaders include speakers Congressman Dwight Evans, Sen. Vincent Hughes (who, along with his father, has been at the forefront for decades as effective political insiders in the fight for Cheyney), Rep. Stephen Kinsey, Councilman David Oh, Karen Warrington from Congressman Bob Brady’s office, Rev. Jay Broadnax of the Philadelphia Black Clergy, Rev. Gregory Holston of POWER, Rev. Dr. Renee McKenzie of the Church of the Advocate, and Pastor Keith Collins of the Church of the Overcomer.

In addition, I gotta give a big shout-out to the influential leaders who were unable to attend but expressed their strong support by writing letters, sending chiefs of staff, or engaging in ongoing pro-HCC activism. Letters were written by U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Sen. Art Haywood, Rep. James Roebuck, Rep. Brian Kirkland, District Attorney candidate Larry Krasner, Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller of Enon Tabernacle, and Dr. Molefi Asante. Sen. Anthony Williams (whose family has ties to Cheyney) sent his chief of staff. The ongoing pro-HCC activists include NAACP Philadelphia Chapter President Min. Rodney Muhammad, Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network via Philadelphia Chapter President Paula Peebles, Pam Africa of MOVE, APSCUF (Pennsylvania professors) President Ken Mash, Rep. Vanessa Lowery Brown, and especially Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Jordan Harris.

By the way, the three Cheyney students who spoke, namely Nyrie Watson, Shaquille Harrison, and Shaneka Briggs, were eloquent, impassioned, and inspiring. They were exactly who Nina Simone was referring to in her song, “Young, Gifted, and Black.”

At that August 1 event, HCC along with the school’s alumni and other supporters held a press conference and rally outside Governor Tom Wolf’s Philadelphia office. The goal was to express appreciation for the great work the Governor has done to assist Cheyney and- more important- to sound the alarm to alert him that things are much worse than before. The suffocating smoke has escalated into engulfing flames. In other words, Cheyney is now a “house on fire.” And we need Governor Wolf to go from earnestly reaching for an extinguisher to frantically driving one of those big red fire engine trucks with the heavy-duty water deluge gun on the top, the extended ladder on the side, and the barking Dalmatian in the back.

Let’s return to the title of this article. Here’s the complete version: Cheyney will die on September 1 unless… you respond to HCC’s “Call To Action.” During the August 1 press conference and rally, HCC distributed its “Call To Action” document, which states

Stop the imminent loss of Cheyney’s accreditation.

Stop the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE)/Task Force plan

to sell Cheyney’s land, slash its academic programs, reduce its student enrollment, eliminate its NCAA sports, and cut its staff.

You can do this by contacting the following persons

and making the following (or similar) statements:

Call Cheyney’s new Interim President Aaron Walton (610-399-2275). While commending him for the impressive job he’s doing so far, ask him what exactly is Cheyney doing to meet the September 1 deadline set by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) for submission of a “substantive report” regarding accreditation compliance.

Call PASSHE Board Chairperson/Task Force Member Cynthia Shapira (717-720-4000). Tell her not to sell Cheyney’s land, slash its academic programs, reduce its enrollment, eliminate its NCAA sports, or cut its staff.

Call Governor Wolf (717-787-2500). Thank him for his commitment to and support for Cheyney, but remind him that the oldest Black institution of higher learning in America is now a “house on fire.” And ask him to drown the flames by notifying MSCHE that he will provide whatever Cheyney needs for accreditation compliance (because PASSHE, since 1983, caused the racially discriminatory fire by malicious commission or allowed it by reckless omission). Also, ask him to order the Task Force not to take any action to sell Cheyney’s land, slash its programs, reduce its enrollment, eliminate its NCAA sports, or cut its staff.

The “Call To Action” concludes by asking everyone, after they make the three aforementioned calls to save Cheyney from losing its accreditation or from becoming a demeaned shell of its former self, to contact HCC at HeedingCheyneysCall@gmail.com and inform us of the response they received.

Is Cheyney gonna die on the September 1 deadline? Yes, if you don’t make the calls. No, if you do. The outcome is totally up to you.

Michael Coard, Esquire can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD96.1-FM. And his “TV Courtroom” show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.

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