HBCUs + Social Innovation: Preserving Our History

by Crystal deGregory, Guest Blogger


You can change the world when the change begins with you. Somewhere inside you, there must be the choice to change the world–but not before the recognition of your power to do so. It is this right, that gives each of us the responsibility to be better leaders and to be better people.

Admittedly, there are a lot of problems in our families, communities, nations and indeed, in the world. Even when we attempt to do good the complex social challenges we face are often daunting, and seemingly unfixable.

We do good anyway.

Social innovation is not merely about what we change, how we change or even how much change we make. Social innovation is most importantly, about why we change. It is about the choice to do good when we aren’t guaranteed the change we seek, despite how desperately the change is needed.

Change doesn’t always–or even mostly–happen on our timeline, which is why understanding why we make the choice to change is the most important element of social innovation. Because when we truly understand what motivates us, we stay motivated when it’s not easy to do so.

We dare to dream anyway.

And in doing so, we achieve the important and all-too-often neglected feat of motivating others. Despite the tremendous value of social innovation, its greatest value is our ability to help others recognize their own power.

2013 Storyteller of the Year Legend Awardee Michael J. Sorrell, Esq., Paul Quinn College President and Dr. Crystal A. deGregory, HBCUstory, Inc. Founder + Executive Editor
2013 Storyteller of the Year Legend Awardee Michael J. Sorrell, Esq., Paul Quinn College President and Dr. Crystal A. deGregory, HBCUstory, Inc. Founder + Executive Editor

When I was a student at the historic Fisk University, one of the nation’s oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Fisk helped me recognize my power. From their foundings in shadow of the Civil War, HBCUs still continue to transform the lives of countless students just like me. As the principal higher education centers for generations of African Americans, HBCU alumni helped to make the modern Civil Rights Movement possible, forcing the desegregation the American nation and of its centers of higher education. Ironically, it is this success that now threatens the existence HBCUs, which are constantly assailed with questions of relevance and challenges to their existence.

Founded in 2012, HBCUstory, Inc. is an answer to that challenge. By preserving, presenting and promoting inspiring stories of the HBCU past and present, HBCUstory ensures the collective future of HBCUs. On October 24 -25 we’ll convene the second HBCUstory Symposium, a two-day research and cultural symposium themed Where Do HBCUs Go From Here? Strategic Partnerships + Sustainable Futures, in Washington, D.C., in partnership with the Association of Public Land-grant Universities.

We are social innovation. We are the changing face of philanthropy. Join Darius Graham, Founder and Director of the DC Social Innovation Project and Jane Floyd, Director of Communications at Revolution and Case Foundation at the 2014 Changing the Face of Philanthropy Summit on June 27 -28 in Washington, D.C. to hear more stories like ours, and learn how you can use social innovation to become a change agent.

At HBCUStory, we use the words of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University alumna Patricia Stephens Due as our mantra: we know that as storytellers, only our stories will live forever.

We happily tell the HBCUstory, the story of HBCU greatness, anyway. What’s your story?
photo (3)Crystal A. deGregory Ph.D., is a historian and educational consultant and the founder and executive editor of HBCUstory, Inc., an advocacy initiative presenting inspiring stories of the HBCUs past and present, for our future. She is the convenor of the HBCUstory Symposium and is editor-in-chief of the forthcoming Journal of HBCU Research and Culture (HBCUR+C). Follow her on twitter at @HBCUstorian.

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