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Lift Every Voice and Protest
Published:
2/18/2015 3:57:48 PM

By Beverly Gadson-Birch


South Carolina State University-Sometimes, somebody just needs to say so. And say so the SCSU alumni did when they converged upon the State House in freezing temperatures on Monday to lift their voices in protest against the proposed closing of the University. South Carolina State University has been the center of a proposed two year ill-advised shut down by some members of the General Assembly. President Elzey, who has been at the helm less than two years, along with students and alumni made it clear that the University will not close. The University is experiencing financial difficulties so the easy solution is to close the school rather than look for tangible long term solutions.

Rep. Jim Merrill, Charleston Republican, chairs the panel that brought the two year temporary close before the Ways and Means Committee. Isn’t he the same representative that accused Rep. Wendell Gilliard of duping them into changing the name of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in honor of the Sweetgrass Basket ladies? Whoa, I smell a rat. Let’s close the school down for two years, reorganize and reopen as something else other than South Carolina State University. Perhaps, the University will become a satellite campus for the University of SC. I don’t think anyone is downplaying the present financial crisis the state supported institution finds itself in. The proposal to close SCSU is a wakeup call for the university’s Board of Trustees and alumni. Either you find a fix or someone will fix it for you. The University cannot continue along the same path and expect different results. Perhaps the state can begin to correct some of the problems with equitable funding.

Jacob’s Protest: the protest of one- In keeping with the plight of blacks during Black History month, SCSU alumni outcry can be compared to a story I once read about a slave named Jacob. Sometimes we just stand by silently and watch things happen.

Jacob stood silently by for years watching a cruel slave boy named Gilbert mercilessly beat other slave boys. Although Gilbert was a slave, he took on the characteristics of the slave owner but he never beat Jacob. He always threatened Jacob of the same harsh treatment if he ever told what happened. Jacob remained silent as long as he wasn’t being beaten. Then one day, Gilbert decided to beat Jacob and told him to take off his shirt. Jacob slowly took off his shirt all the while thinking of how he could escape his fate. Suddenly Jacob threw his shirt at Gilbert’s head and while Gilbert was trying to get the shirt off of his head, Jacob took off running toward the sound of some carpenters who had been working on a project in the distance. He ran straight in the arms of his Uncle and he told his uncle. Gilbert found himself on the receiving end. He was severely whipped and had to apologize to those he had whipped. It was the protest of one man, Jacob, who finally had the courage to lift his voice and say something that saved others from being severely beaten.

Like Jacob, sometimes we sit idly by watching and not saying anything until our backs are up against the wall.

Jacob’s story did not end with Gilbert’s beating and apology. Jacob remained on the plantation with his parents. He began to work with his father taking care of the horses. He had never received a whipping until one day he received a beating from the white overseer because he fell off the horse he was caring for. First, Jacob played on the sympathy of the flogger by crying hysterically. When that did not work, he ran to his mother and told her what happened and she approached the man who had beaten him and she, too, was beaten. He tried to save his mother from the beating and he was flogged again. His mother could not help him. He then ran to his father and told him his story. His father in turn told him to do his work well because he could not help him. Jacob felt doomed. He told his parents that he was getting beaten too much for no apparent reasons. He told his parents he was going to fight back the next time he was beaten. Jacob’s father told him once again to do his work to the best of his ability and advised him not to fight back because he would also put them in harm’s way. The flogger would think they were behind his uprising and they too would find themselves in a dangerous situation.

Sometimes when our backs are up against the wall, we come out swinging. Like Jacob, our misfortunes cause us to think in a light that we would not otherwise have thought of. We begin to look for options and opportunities. When Jacob’s tearful appeal to the flogger did not work, he turned to his mother. When his mother’s efforts failed, he turned to his father. Jacob did not give up.

When things get rough, we are quick to throw in the towel and take the easy way out. We are beaten and cast down on every side but we must get up and stay up. Every trick in the book is used against black folk but you can’t give up. We are told there is no money to fix things at SCSU but let’s not forget Governor Nikki Haley turned away millions of federal dollars that could have helped struggling colleges and schools. Keep in mind every time we get flogged, we have to be like Jacob and find other avenues to save ourselves. There can be no solutions without efforts.

SCSU alumni step up to the plate. Save your alma mater! If it were not for SCSU and historically black colleges where would you be? Think on these things and let your voices be heard.





 

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