Hampden County

Annual MLK Dinner and Dialogue focuses on historically black colleges

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Sorority sisters welcomed community members to the sixth annual MLK Dinner and Dialogue.

Each year Xi Xi Omega, a graduate chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority selects a trending topic for their annual MLK Dinner and Dialogue.

This year the focus is on the importance of HBCUs, or Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the 21st century. And after discovering Bennett College in North Carolina, one of just two all-women HBCUs, the college had been facing closure and the loss of its accreditation because of lack of funding.

Xi Xi Omega Chapter President Lisa Johnson told 22News, it's important to support the nation's HBCUs, especially because many students in African American communities across New England attend HBCU schools.

"And that is a tremendous asset to our community regardless of where we live," said Johnson. "If there is a concern that affects them, it affects all of us in the African American community."

Johnson told 22News, the national organization has committed itself to raise $10 million over the next 10 years to donate to HBCUs across the country. And having met the financial requirement to keep its accreditation, Bennett College may be saved after all, but that doesn't take away from the fact that HBCUs are struggling to stay open.

VP of Xi Xi Omega Chapter, Ashley Sherrill told 22News, "This problem isn't gone just because Bennett met its goal. There are other HBCUs out there that are struggling and it's really important that we donate regularly, so we don't have to have this kind of get together, problem solve last minute and raise a bunch of money. We should be supporting our HBCUs year long."

Collaborating with the sorority is the Association of Black Business and Professionals, who told 22News supporting enrollment is key when talking about HBCUs.

"It's an opportunity for black kids to go and get educated in predominately black schools, so they don't have to worry about feeling uncomfortable in all white scenarios and areas," said Chairman Robert Jones. "It's an opportunity for them to learn a lot more about their history and a lot more about their culture in an environment that is a positive environment." 


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