Edward Waters University President Demands Federal Funding To Protect HBCUs After Jacksonville Shooting

The man who killed three Black people in a racist shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, originally planned to attack a local HBCU. Now, the school's president says HBCUs need more money to protect students.
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Published on August 29, 2023
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  • A federal hate crime investigation is underway in Jacksonville, Florida, after a gunman on Saturday killed three Black people at a Dollar General store.
  • The shooter originally targeted Edward Waters University (EWU), the president of the historically Black college (HBCU) confirmed.
  • EWU's president said the country's HBCUs need more money to secure their campuses against white supremacist threats.

The white supremacist who killed three Black people in a racist shooting in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday originally targeted Edward Waters University (EWU), the president of the historically Black college (HBCU) said Monday.

A federal hate crime investigation is underway in Jacksonville after a gunman, identified as 21-year-old Ryan Christopher Palmeter, killed three Black people at a Dollar General store before killing himself, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.

Before entering the Dollar General, the gunman drove to EWU, parked behind the school's library, and put on body armor, EWU President Dr. A. Zachary Faison Jr. said Monday in a press conference. Faison said students noticed the suspicious behavior and alerted campus police; when they approached Palmeter, he fled in his car.

Faison at the press conference called on the Biden administration to provide additional funding to the nation's HBCUs to protect against white supremacist threats. Just last year, EWU was the target of a bomb threat, he said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the aftermath of the killings directed $1.1 million to EWU for security and $100,000 for the victim's families. Faison thanked the governor but said the country's HBCUs need more money for security.

"I'm calling on him and our state legislative leaders to do more to secure our HBCU schools who are under deliberate and specifically-aimed vicious attack, and who individually and collectively lack the resources to adequately protect themselves from these monstrous, wicked threats," Faison said.

Jacksonville-area leaders, meanwhile, said they view DeSantis's aid offer to be an "empty gesture."

"Let me be perfectly clear: no amount of money can erase the pain caused by years of marginalization and oppression," state Rep. Angie Nixon said in a statement on X. "For it to take murder for him to dig in his overflowing coffers for support is appalling."

EWU's Faison also called out the whitewashing of Black history and said that HBCUs are now responsible for teaching the true history of America.

"We alone, as the nation's leading collection of Black educators, hold the future of America in our hands, for we are the primary disseminators of America's unadulterated history of truth in a nation that won't truly recognize, reconcile, and confront the inconvenient, true history of its past," Faison said Monday.

The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) on Monday released a statement, supporting EWU, and seconding Faison's call for increased federal and state funding for HBCU security. Lodriguez V. Murray, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs at UNCF, urged Congress to allocate $100 million annually in U.S. Department of Homeland Security funding to HBCUs.

"This will help HBCUs to be protected against threats by increasing security, developing plans on how to respond beyond simply calling the police, heighten the use of technology to monitor campus entry points, and make our environments the safe haven for learning they should be for the sake—and mental health and security—of our students,” Murray said in the statement.

Faison previously released a statement via YouTube, in which he said the university remains committed to safety, but EWU "will not be ruled by racism."

"We are, in fact, moving forward, and we do not intend for this to mar or mark the work that we do at Edward Waters," Faison said. "There will be good that comes out of this, as I believe that this community is primed to pull together and move things forward and find a sense of racial harmony that, perhaps, this community has never seen."