I love Brooklyn, N.Y. I love the community and all that lies within it. The people, the businesses, the architecture, the history, the parks, the culture... all have captured my heart. Yes, my first love will always be my hometown Detroit, but for the past 13 years I have become an adopted son of BK. That being said, because I am a strong advocate of education and the economic change it brings to our communities, I also love Medgar Evers College ("MEC").
Medgar Evers College is a school full of history entrenched with legacy and is a cornerstone in the Brooklyn borough. This is why I and handfuls of others have decided to volunteer to serve the educational foundation of this great institution with so much promise. Obviously, as with any school of higher education, times do not pass without their troubles. For me and others to join the board has allowed us to directly address these problems concerning an institution that we love so dearly. All who serve on the board do so out of pure love. Educational foundational board members are not paid and are even asked to contribute to the financial well-being of the institution. However, this is far from a thankless position. Being able to walk around with thousands of future leaders of our communities with each visit to the campus and attending an inspiring MEC graduation is more than enough payment for all of us.
Loving Medgar Evers College is not an affection solely possessed by those who serve on its board. The teachers, students, administration, and community residents/advocates who support the school also have a strong yearning to see it succeed. It is no secret the college has had a lot of negative press of late and there are many who have spoken out against the actions of the leadership of the institution. I believe all who have taken an antagonist position have not done so against the school but against actions which they believe are harmful to the forward progression of the institution which they love so dearly.
Those who have spoken out against the actions of the leadership of MEC are not so different than I, those who serve on the board, or any executives who make daily decisions on the behalf of the school. All have an image of greatness of which they believe Medgar Evers College can attain, are willing to support whatever they believe is the best solution to help MEC achieve their image of greatness, have a strong love for the school, and an even stronger love for what the school stands for" a chance for education for all who attend as well as proof of the greatness the community can build with effective collaboration. This love of MEC is just expressed in different ways: some choose to serve on the board, some choose to take a leadership role as an executive, and some choose to protest actions they feel are harmful to its forward progress. It is vital to understand no matter how you choose to decide to express your love for Medgar Evers College we must remain mindful of two important elements:
1. All believe they have the best interests at heart for the institution.
2. All have the utmost respect for the ability to pursue and achieve a quality education.
Now that Dr. Pollard has decided to step down, what will we do? Will we continue to have heated town hall meetings where it seems those who attend only have an interest in seeing who can yell the loudest, thereby attaining a quote in the local paper? Will we continue to hold divisive meetings with a stronger desire to be proven right than a desire to hear out and fully understand the others perspective? As long as there is unrest and excessive discord about the future of MEC on display for all the community to see; as long as the press continues to present negative stories about what is transpiring at MEC (warranted or not); and as long as we continue to not act in an unified manner about something we all care about so deeply this is what is happening:
• Student retention rates are decreasing -- Students who are caught in the middle of this community crossfire and grow skeptical of the future of MEC are dropping out.
• New student enrollment rates are decreasing -- Potential students looking to further their education catch wind of the negativity and unrest about MEC and decide not to consider it as their future institute of higher learning.
• Monetary donations vital to the schools ability to operate are decreasing -- Funders who have supported the school previously are deciding to back away until all issues are resolved.
I am less concerned with who is right or wrong in this process, than I am concerned with making sure that we can all act in the best interest of the economic viability of this institution. The great community of Brooklyn gave birth to this institution and I would like the control of this institution to remain within the community. I would hate to see this institution that was constructed to achieve greatness be swallowed by another school because of failure to stand on its own. I am not saying there aren't any shortcomings in the leadership of Medgar Evers College. If leadership was perfect there would be no reason to have a board in the first place. It is imperative that we must focus on a unified strategy that shows the world that even amidst principled disagreement we can still demonstrate our love for one another and can effectively work towards a solution together. Any other means might have good intention, but will only end up hurting the very thing we have set out to empower.
This year, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Medgar Evers. What did he die for? Did he die for us to divide ourselves? Did he die for us to prove that we don't have the ability to run and manage our own institutions effectively? Absolutely not! I am not saying that we must not express ourselves and collectively provide our input into how we can make this institution greater...but we must do it in a way that would prove to Medgar Evers that he didn't die in vain. We must all stay strong in the cause; we must all remain dedicated to the cause; but we must remain diligent in remaining unified in our fight for the cause.
Malcolm X said:
"Instead of us airing our differences in public, we have to realize we're all the same family. And when you have a family squabble, you don't get out on the sidewalk. If you do, everybody calls you uncouth, unrefined, uncivilized, savage. If you don't make it at home, you settle it at home; you get in the closet -- argue it out behind closed doors. And then when you come out on the street, you pose a common front, a united front. And this is what we need to do in the community, and in the city, and in the state."
Let us all heed the words of Malcolm X as we continue to seek ways to build upon the already strong legacy of Medgar Ever College. I look forward to talking and working with all the community as we support this college to see greater days ahead!
Ryan Mack, Vice Chair/Sitting Chair of the MEC Educational Foundation
Follow Ryan Mack on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ryancmack