WHIG TV's 2014 College Round-Up Interview with Fay Smith, BHMACC Education Director
Dancy Communications Network's Interview with Dianne Valentin, BHMACC Co-Founder & Executive Director
Dancy Communications Network College Round-Up Q & A
DCN Question (Q). Will you share briefly a little about what is The Black Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, Inc.
Dianne Valentin Answer (A). The Black Heritage Museum & Cultural Center, Inc. (BHMACC) is a nonprofit organization with federal 501 (c) 3 tax-exempt status. The BHMACC is being developed (yes, we are still in development) because we understand the need for an independent institution that reflects and supports our rich and diverse history.
Our mission is to document and preserve Black heritage, culture, and scholarship and use it to encourage, empower, and uplift current and future generations through scholarly engagement, art, and artistic expression while cultivating critical thought.
We developed four cornerstones that we will use to build a strong institution upon:
Education: Because we believe and have historically believed that education is of the highest importance.
Economic Empowerment: Even though opportunities may have been deferred or denied, we believe in being prepared and trained to take advantage of them.
Unity: It has historically been the key to our survival and is something it seems that we must relearn.
Faith: Without faith we could not, would not have survived all that we have as a people
Do you remember when we started and maintained strong institutions like banks, insurance companies, colleges?
Remember Maggie L. Walker who founded the first bank ever founded by a black woman in the U.S. and it still exists, just with another name. It still exists because of unity in the community back then. She made loans to black businesses, she made loans to students, and she made loans to people to buy houses. Ms. Walker started the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903 with $9,430 in deposits gathered from members of the Independent Order of St. Luke, an African-American benevolent society. Consolidated Bank & Trust Co. is the current name of the bank she started.
Speaking of unity, while many of the largest black-owned banks went under during the Great Depression, Ms. Walker's bank survived, in part by merging with two smaller, black-owned banks in 1930, when it was renamed Consolidated Bank & Trust.
I know that I haven’t been brief, but I had to give a historic point of reference. I would also like to share our vision with you so that your audience can get a sense of what we are trying to accomplish, and bring to the communities that we serve. We are developing and with everyone’s help will become the type of strong, well rounded institution like we used to have in our culture and within our communities. I am faithfully committed to that.
As a museum it will engage in the acquisition, exhibition, preservation, and study of works of artistic, scientific, and historic value.
As a cultural center it will engage in social, intellectual, and artistic activities that reflect our impact on society, its growth and development.
As an education center it will elevate and advance discussion on our history and heritage, engage in discourse to advance our cultural, technical, and scientific knowledge through scholarship.
We need an independent place; to document our cultural contributions and accomplishments, to assure an accurate depiction of our participation in this society, while providing a place for scholars and performers to share their knowledge, gifts, and talents with everyone.
We are taking steps to create that independent space. We acknowledge that even the building blocks need rebuilding. Yet, this is where we are beginning. Albeit a virtual beginning, we have to start somewhere. Folks can visit our website at www.bhmacc.org
Q. How did the College Round-Up become into existence in Edgecombe County?
A. Before 2001, even as a strong family keenly focused on education, with many educators in their family, the Whitehead / Taylor family which is based in Tarboro, had encountered what they noticed to be difficulties with their student family members gaining access to college preparation.
They correctly assumed that if their student family member was facing obstacles, surely other students who didn’t have anyone advocating for them would be having similar, if not even more difficult problems preparing for and getting into college or university.
In the Whitehead / Taylor family’s spirit of community service they began collaborating to find a vehicle that would best serve students who had be overlooked, marginalized in one way or another, and in some cases discriminated against when it came time to engage in and be guided on using their high school career to prepare for a post-secondary education.
Bob Whitehead began using his networking skills to bring colleges and universities to the table of discussion. He shared with them that there were students out there who just were never given a chance to prepare or be prepared for college. He explained to the colleges that they may need a little remedial assistance in the beginning since they had not been well served by the school systems, and that they may need financial assistance due to the fact that many were from communities that have been systematically marginalized within our economic system.
He challenged the colleges and universities to put their admissions and financial aid capabilities behind their community engagement rhetoric and give these students a chance to get a college education. They were asked to waive their application fees, because many students could not afford to pay twenty-five to one hundred dollars for applications to college over and over again.
Initially several colleges showed up at the Tarboro High School auditorium knowing that they were going to be meeting with students and their families who had faced and were still facing challenges. I commend and applaud those Historically Black Colleges and Universities that came through from the very beginning for the first College Round-Up in 2001!
Q. How many years has the College Round-Up been held in Edgecombe County?
A. This will be the twelfth year that the College Round-Up has been held in Edgecombe County.
Q. Who were the previous speakers for the event?
A. My gosh, I would probably, very unintentionally, leave some folks out. Let me see if I can remember some of them. I hope anyone not named forgives me this senior moment. Clifton Davis, Judge Glenda Hatchett, Uniqua Wade, Kaiem Frink, (both Uniqua and Kaiem came through the College Round-Up program), Kwame Brown, Arjun Makhijani, Kim Coles, I think Willie Gilchrist, and this year Judge Betty Staton and Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield (who has been a previous keynote) will join us.
Q. What is the purpose of the College Round-Up Day in Edgecombe County?
A. The bottom line purpose is to bring students and their families to a place where they can meet with colleges and universities that have a sensitivity to some of the issues and barriers that have faced marginalized, poor and minority students over the years. Students who don’t historically fall into those categories attend and benefit from it as well.
Q. How has the participation been over the years?
A. It started with about eighty people and then grew to about two hundred while it was being held at Tarboro High School. By the time we moved it to Edgecombe Community College it had grown to about eight hundred and now between fifteen hundred and two thousand people come to the College Round-Up.
Q. Is the College Round-Up Day limited to Edgecombe County students and/or a certain age group?
A. By no means do we limit access to anyone who wishes to attend. There are students from all over North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C who attend the College Round-Up. One year we even had students from New Orleans, Colorado and California.
Students who are Freshmen, Sophomores, and Juniors in high school attend the College Round-Up to become familiar with the schools and attend the break-out sessions, which are always really informative. They find it helpful to hear from the colleges and universities firsthand what type of courses they should be taking during their high school careers to be successful during their college careers. And of course high school Seniors attend to focus directly on getting accepted into college.
We even have some middle school students who have been in attendance as sort of a field trip to see what happens in that type of setting, to see what they have to look forward to and work toward. Older college age students have attended so that they can speak with the college representatives about transferring to or starting attendance at their schools. So we have no age issues. Everyone can come on down to see what the College Round-Up might have to offer them.
Q. How many colleges and others are scheduled to attend this year’s College Round-Up?
A. We have about twenty colleges and others committed to attend so far. Usually between twenty-five and thirty schools show up. Actually there are schools that consider themselves part of our College Round-Up family and just show up every year, that sort of commitment to our program makes us happy!
Q. Will you share how some students have benefitted from attending the event?
A. Some students and their families have told us that the benefits experienced by attending the College Round-Up have been immeasurable. Students have said that they had never been in that type of setting before. From a more tangible perspective, we have students who have been accepted in to college or university on the spot, we have students who have gone on to complete their undergraduate work, engage in their Master’s, go on to become educators themselves, become lawyers, college professors. I am so proud of them, even though I don’t get to meet each and every one of them.
Q. Do you have anything you would like to add?
A. Just that I appreciate you for showing up and documenting our work. I am proud to be able to say that I know someone who has started a communications network and that you support our efforts!
I really just want people to show up so that they might benefit from attending the College Round-Up. Parents, teachers, everyone needs to bring the students that they know who need to prepare for a college education. We are a holistic event if I may use the term. We have the morning program which gets everyone going and into the spirit of the event, we have very enthusiastic college and university representatives who are wonderfully competitive, and we have great facilitators of our break-out sessions who want our students to be well rounded when they go off to fulfill their dreams of a post-secondary education, whether it is at a community college, a technical institute, or a four year college or university.
I can’t thank you enough for doing this and supporting us the way that you have over the years.