Edward Waters College Provides Hope for African-American Men

By Weathersbee, Tonyaa | The Florida Times Union, October 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Edward Waters College Provides Hope for African-American Men

Weathersbee, Tonyaa, The Florida Times Union

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee

As new president of Edward Waters College, Claudette Williams is stuck somewhere between hallowed halls and a hard place.

Not only is she saddled with the chore of reversing the scandal-ridden school's slide in enrollments, but the community's jaded perceptions of it, as well.

But one group that is keeping the faith in the African Methodist Episcopal school, it seems, are black men. Maybe because in a neighborhood with a dearth of jobs and institutions left to uplift them, the college may be one of the only things worth believing in.

At Edward Waters, black men make up 56 percent of the 800 or so students who are enrolled there, Williams told me. And that's rare.

It's rare, because at most historically black colleges and universities, black women tend to outnumber black men. At Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, for example, black men make up around 43 percent of its enrollment.

The low numbers of black men pursuing higher education has even spurred the Presidents' Round Table, a coalition of black community college presidents, and the Congressional Black Caucus to develop a plan to reverse that trend.

Yet, Williams can't quite explain how Edward Waters is bucking it.

"It's certainly interesting," Williams said. "Maybe it's because of our inner-city location ... maybe they feel more comfortable because of it."

"One night, I spent three hours at Tiger Landing (a hangout near campus) just talking to the guys," Williams said. "We were just talking about life, and what it takes to be successful in life."

Such talks, of course, invariably turn to concerns about the problems that continue to trip up young black men in their quest for success.

There's the sagging pants - a style that isn't inspired by any kind of righteous rebellion, but by acquiescence to the incarceration culture that is devastating so many of their communities.

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