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Four Years Later: HBCU Advocacy In New York

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Dennis Richmond, Jr.

In December 2014, I finished the first half of my undergraduate freshmen. I was studying African and African American Studies at Claflin University.

Claflin University is a private, coeducational, liberal arts institution in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I had been very homesick, and I was extremely excited to be going back home. When I got back to New York though, I realized that nothing had changed. Everything was pretty much the way that I left it.

As December went on, I made it my mission to go across my community and, “Beat the Drum for HBCUs”. This was a phrase that I got from Professor Patricia H. Koger, a former Professor at Claflin University and one of my mentors. Professor Koger has helped me with so much. As I beat the drum for HBCUs in 2014, I was well received by students at each high school that I went to, and they started following me on social media. Follow requests on Instagram started to roll in. And like that, I had a platform.

I started to think that I could really make a difference talking about education. I came up with this idea to start an HBCU initiative, a New York thing. The New York State HBCU Initiative, a volunteer project, was born. I needed people to help me financially though. During the rest of the month, I met with people like the CEO of Hudson Valley Bank at the time, James Landy, the Executive Director of The Nepperhan Community Center, Rev. Dr. Jim Bostic, City of Yonkers, New York Councilwoman Corazon Pineda-Isaac, and the Mayor of New Rochelle, New York, Noam Bramson. All four of them helped me with my mission to educate people about HBCUs.

The rest is history.

Since December 2014, so much has happened in my life all because of God and the fact that I decided to attend an HBCU. Below, are a just a few highlights of my life since starting the Initiative:


  • I received a letter from United States President Barack Obama;
  • I was awarded a $25,000 scholarship from The United Negro College Fund;
  • I was featured on BET through The UNCFs, “An Evening of Stars”;
  • New York State Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow became a sponsor;
  • New York State Assemblyman N. Nick Perry became a sponsor;
  • New York State Assemblywoman (at the time) Shelley Mayerbecame a sponsor


  • Rapper Jadakiss became a sponsor;
  • Mrs. Bridget Leigh-Bracey became a sponsor and helped me fundraise for the initiative;
  • Rapper, Songwriter, and Television Personality Cardi B became a supporter;
  • I was selected as one of HBCUBuzz’s 30 Under 30;
  • I was awarded a $3,800 scholarship from the UNCF;
  • I hosted and HBCU Speaking Tour across New York


  • I graduated Magna Cum Laude from Claflin University;
  • I started matriculating at Sarah Lawrence College in The Art of Teaching graduate program;
  • I received a letter about the Initiative from the U.S. Representative for New York’s 16th congressional district, Eliot Engel


  • New York State Senator and Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became a sponsor;
  • I spoke at The UNCFs 2018 A Mind Is… Gala!;
  • I met former United States President Bill Clinton and former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

I would like to thank everyone who has assisted me to get to where I am today. That is a lot of people.

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