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White House to Proceed with HBCU Conference, Despite Black Lawmakers’ Request to Postpone It

Over 85 leaders of HBCUs met with President Donald Trump at the White House earlier this year in what turned out to be merely another photo op for Trump. (Photo by Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The White House has rejected calls to postpone an upcoming conference on historically Black colleges next month, despite requests from Black lawmakers for President Donald Trump to delay the event amid fallout over his remarks about the deadly Charlottesville protests.

The 2017 National HBCU Week Conference will proceed as scheduled, Omorosa Manigault-Newman, communications director for the White House’s Office of Public Liaison, said on Tuesday, Aug. 22. The event will take place Sep. 17-19 at the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va.

“President Trump’s commitment to the HBCU community remains strong and unwavering,” Manigault-Newman said in a statement to the McClatchy Washington Bureau. “Registration is currently at capacity and we’re looking forward to welcoming HBCU presidents, students and guests.”

She added that administration officials are expected to announce an executive director for the president’s initiative for historically Black colleges.

Some lawmakers and HBCU supporters remain wary of Trump’s commitment to the historic schools, however, after the president questioned whether a key funding source for HBCUs was constitutional. Then, there was the time he signed an executive order recognizing the importance of HBCUs, but then failed to provide them any additional funds in his proposed budget.

Trump’s comments in the wake of the Charlottesville unrest sparked by white nationalist protesters, where be blamed “many sides” for the violence that unfolded, didn’t help his case with Black lawmakers. Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), the first lawmaker to call for the president to delay the upcoming conference, said the White House didn’t respond to her Aug. 1 letter requesting an update on the HBCU initiative nor did it get back to her after the president’s tepid reaction to the violent rally, according to the McClatchy Washington Bureau.

Rather than proceed with the conference next month, “It’d be more productive to hear from the president directly or from his education secretary about what progress they are making on the HBCUs’ request before asking presidents to come back to Washington for another photo op,” Adams said Tuesday.

Leaders with the United Negro College Fund have also called for Trump to shelve the event. In a two-page letter obtained by The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the organization wrote it feels the conference should be put off until the White House appoints an executive director to its HBCU initiative and develops “a meaningful plan of action with concrete commitments to invest in and advance HBCUs.”

“We make this recommendation in the spirit in sincerely advancing our mutual goals of promoting excellence and innovation at the nation’s HBCUs and enhancing their unique educational, economic and civic contributions to the country,” UNCF president and CEO Michael Lomax wrote in the letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Andrew Bremberg, the White House domestic policy council director.

The organization added that it would not release a critical HBCU economic impact study it commissioned if the conference goes forward as planned.

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