Local College Fair Highlights Historically Black Colleges and Universities

Article excerpt

Imagine growing up African-American in the pretty much white- bread culture of Minnesota in the 1970s and 1980s, as Kerwin Bell did, and maybe thinking this was all there was to being black in America, even though your parents told you different.

"In Minnesota back then there weren't very many of us," Bell recollects. "The North Side was our very small version of Atlanta. If you didn't live there [and he didn't,] you weren't a part of it."

Unless you lived right there, he says, there wasn't that sense of black community, that realization that African-Americans come in "a wide variety of hues and tones," live in various social classes and have a wide variety of talents, interests, aspirations and goals.

In fact, it wasn't until he went off to college that he experienced that, and was the better for it, he says.

"Working and living together, with people who look like us, that's a privilege I didn't experience growing up in Minnesota,'' he says carefully, though acknowledging the privilege of being the son of college-educated parents who had successful careers as educators in Minneapolis public schools.

Times have changed, Bell says, but as a public school teacher today he still sees that kind of community yearning among students of color.

That's why I'm highlighting his story as I tell you about the 3rd Annual HBCU College Fair coming up Monday, Jan. 16, the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The event runs from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at St. Peter's AME Church at 401 E. 41st St. in Minneapolis.

You see, Bell is a 1993 graduate of Alabama A & M University, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities that the fair is about, one of those 105 educational institutions in the southern and eastern United States that set out to educate Americans of African descent after the Civil War. There are none such in Minnesota.

Today Bell, 43, works as an equity teacher and learning specialist for the Anoka-Hennepin School District. He has a master's degree and an administrative license in education.

And so he's an educational symbol.

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