Patricia Green-Powell

Patricia Green-Powell speaks at the Florida Legislative Black Caucus symposium Friday to discuss issues affecting education among African Americans in Florida. / Glenn Beil/Tallahassee Democrat

The president of Florida Memorial University, Roslyn Artis, said her institution and other historically black colleges and universities have done the heavy lifting in offering African-American students a place to learn, grow and graduate.

She addressed a crowd of business and educational leaders from around the state Friday afternoon at the Florida Conference of Black State Legislators.

“Our students need us,” said Artis, who took the full-time position as president of the Miami university last month. “It’s been said that education is the civil rights issue of our time. It is, at the end of the day, the surest way to ensure social and economic equality. We still have work to do.”

Artis said the necessity of HBCUs has been questioned, whether they provide the educational niche they were first intended to. Often students at HBCUs are working from behind.

“We provide educational access to students that, quite frankly, have been denied it elsewhere,” Artis said. “The mantra is that we do more with less and that is the case. Not just in money and resources, but the nature of the students that we educate.”

She added that HBCUs open their doors to all students, regardless of race, and provide opportunity in a world filled with challenges.

“We embrace diversity for the very reason that we embraced integration so many years ago,” she said. “Because we know that an education experience that is rich with diversity and best prepares our students to compete in a world that is inherently diverse.”

Artis touched on the popular Black Male College Explorers Program that introduces middle school and high school students, primarily African-Americans, to a college setting over the summer where they learn life skills as well as get a hand in math, reading and sciences.

She said 100 percent of the young men who attend at FMU end up attending college.

Edward Tolliver, Florida A&M University’s director of the Black Male College Explorers Program said the initiative encourages enthusiasm in knowledge and that 85 percent who attend FAMU’s program, graduate from high school.

Students receive rigorous instruction in math, science and reading, areas Tolliver said show declines in testing scores.

“What we’re trying to do is get them to understand that it’s OK to be smart,” he said.

State Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee, who is chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the chair of Friday’s event, said the merging of business and education offers a unique experience.

“We think it’s important to have the dialogue and have the conversation about our students who are in our schools,” Williams said. “Some of them are being left behind.”

That, he said, is why the conference was started and continues to grow every year.

“We have to come in and cultivate the leadership,” he said. “It’s a big table, they’re big issues and we can’t do it alone. We can’t do it in silos.”


Category: FMU in the News