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‘We’re Still Here’

At its peak, Morris Brown College (MBC) in Atlanta had 2,700 students. Today, it has less than 50. That’s because, beginning in 2003, the state of Georgia’s first school founded for and by black people lost its accreditation thanks to a $32 million financial mismanagement scandal. That, in turn, caused the federal government to pull out all student financial aid and then, in 2012, the college filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  It even lost water service briefly in 2008 because of unpaid utility bills.

But despite all that?

“We’re still here,” says Anjernette Clemons, repeating a well-known alumni mantra. The 1993 graduate is, today, a school counselor in the PBC school district. “Morris Brown just needs help. And with the financial support of the alumni and the community, we can do it ourselves.”

Mrs. Clemons, along with lots of fellow alumni locally and nationwide, is pushing for donations to the school to help it come back. The new interim president, Dr. Kevin James, joins her in that effort. He started March 1.

“We will restore Morris Brown College,” Dr. James said in a video last week. The key, he said, is fundraising and, in the video, he notes that $85,000 had already been raised. Today, just three weeks later, the college is at nearly $250,000. The interim president’s goal is to raise $5 million in six months, and he urges alumni to help. Watch the video below.

And they are. Besides Mrs. Clemons, there are also several nationwide alumni organizations on the team, including Women for Morris Brown College, Inc., the Morris Brown College Foundation and the Morris Brown College National Alumni Association, which currently has a $56.4 million fundraising campaign called ‘Cementing the Legacy’ going on. Learn more, and donate, here. (There are also other support options at story’s end.)

Plus, radio personality Tom Joyner is working with MBC on a ‘$20 Million by 2020’ fundraising effort on behalf of the school. He’s donated $1 million in the past and has offered to buy the school. Twice. Read about his project here.

The good news is the worst appears to be over. The college has significantly lowered its debt and President James is continuing work on the re-accreditation which would bring back federal support and, it is hoped, more students. And let’s note that, despite all it’s been through, the college never closed.

“I love Morris Brown,” Mrs. Clemons said. “A lot of who I am today is because of what I learned at that school. Morris Brown taught me about our rich history, who we are today and why it’s so important to value who we are. And I do; just like I value Morris Brown. I’m going to do what ever I can to make sure it remains.”

Then and now: Anjernette Clemons in 1992 with her escort, left, when she was named Miss Florida Club at Morris Brown College and, right, today.

She estimates about 100 PBC residents have attended the metro-Atlanta institution and is hopeful they can create their own alumni association; the closest clubs are in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Send her an email here if interested. And remember: give.

There are several options to donate. Click here to donate directly to the college; text ‘Give’ to 404-495-3870 or via Cash App: $RestoreMorrisBrown. All donations are tax-exempt and will go directly to the college. Visit the college’s official website here.