Vulnerable, struggling Black communities trying to safely make it from one moment to the next are one thing. Still, nothing inflames the hateful heart of white racism like Black success.

A North Carolina Central University spokeswoman on Thursday said the school will apply for the federal funding Vice President Kamala Harris announced the government will make available to the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that have been disturbed this year by bomb threats.

“North Carolina Central University is pleased to hear the White House’s announcement … which will offer grant funds for historically Black colleges and universities who recently experienced a bomb threat,” NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez said in an email statement to the INDY Thursday afternoon. 

“The university plans to submit a proposal for this program to further support campus security efforts and the mental health needs of NCCU students,” Hernandez added.

In a White House statement this week, Harris said “HBCUs that have recently experienced a bomb threat resulting in a disruption to the campus learning environment are eligible for grant funds” from the Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (Project SERV).

The vice president, herself a graduate of an HBCU, Howard University, explained that “Project SERV provides short-term immediate funding for local educational agencies and institutions of higher learning that have experienced a violent or traumatic incident to assist in restoring a safe environment conducive to learning.”

The targeted campuses make up more than a third of the nation’s HBCUs, and are eligible for funds that typically range from $50,000 to $150,000 per school, Harris said in the White House statement.

Harris added that federal education officials will work with the leaders of HBCU campuses that have been subjected to bomb threats to determine if the funding can help the respective schools’ immediate needs, including mental health resources, enhanced security “to restore the learning environment on their campuses … to ensure students feel safe on their campuses.”

NC Central University officials reported that on January 4, the school’s campus police department “received a call regarding a bomb threat on campus at about 5:30 p.m,” according to a press release.

NCCU was one of seven HBCUs that fielded a bomb threat that day, officials reported.

Officials immediately placed the university on lockdown and issued alerts to its students and employees.

NCCU police responded to the disruptive threat by calling in a parade of law enforcement agencies including, the local police and fire departments, the sheriff’s office, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Durham’s City/County Emergency management, along with the N.C. State University and UNC-Chapel Hill police.

Hours later, officials issued an all clear at 9:15 p.m. after the university’s buildings were searched. Students who were temporarily relocated off campus were transported back to their residence halls, NCCU officials announced.

Harris said the threats have taken place over the last three months, and added that soon after the initial wave of perverse threats, the secretaries of education and homeland security hosted a briefing with more than 40 HBCU presidents to share information on grant programs, training resources and other available tools to “strengthen campus safety and security.” 

Officials from other federal agencies joined education leaders “and heard firsthand” from campus officials “about the need to modernize and update their operations, as well as the need for more resources to help bolster mental health services due to increased apprehension across the campus community.”

“While thankfully, no explosive devices have been found on any of these campuses, significant and lasting damage has been done by threatening the safety and security of the students, faculty and staff at these institutions,” she said. “As a result of these threats, learning has been disrupted, critical resources have been diverted to emergency response, and there has been an increased burden on already overwhelmed campus mental health systems.”

Harris added that “HBCU students – already experiencing the negative impacts for the pandemic such as lingering effects of illness, trauma and basic needs insecurities – are now experiencing additional stress and anxiety because of these bomb threats that can negatively affect their academic success.”

Harris also noted that it is important to view “these recent and reported threats” through the lens of the present day as well as this country’s troubled racial history.

“HBCUs were founded to educate Black people in an America that refused to accept them as full human beings and prevented them – because of racial discrimination – from attending other colleges.

“Threats to the education and well-being of Black Americans and HBUCs are an unfortunate part of American history,” she said. “The bomb threats that we witnessed in January, each week in February – Black History Month, and this month are reminiscent of the attempts during the Civil Rights Era to intimidate and provoke fear in Black Americans.”

The nation’s first female and first Black female vice-president ended her statement by praising HBCUs “proud history and legacy of achievement.”

“That legacy continues, with more than 100 HBCUs located in 19 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that serve nearly 300,000 students annually,” Harris said. “These storied institutions have excelled, in the face of discrimination, and their strength and convictions will not be compromised by these bomb threats.”

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