When we mass recruited Black coeds into the University of Wisconsin (UW), the year was 1969. Rebellion was starting to happen everywhere. College campuses were filled with unrest. Black Panthers, SNCC, Freedom Riders, SDS, etc. were popping up on major campuses throughout the nation.
I chose the UW to fill out my college education and athletic endeavors. Lord, why did I make that decision? There was no other campus more volatile.
Our football record was not too great. It had gotten to the point when the administrators started sending in counselors to see if our mental health was up to par. We resented it and held the administrators in disdain.
One spring afternoon we were each contacted and directed to attend a special meeting. All of us Black players were wondering what was up this time? When we came in and got seated, the biggest shock would hit us. The two most important administrators in the system would stand up and simultaneously ask us: “Why are you dating so many White girls?” Most of us were flabbergasted and could not directly respond. I, being the great opportunist and instigator, became elated with the opportunity that was just presented to us. It was too great to let it pass by. I jumped on this chance like it was a large mouth bass fish in Lake Mendota.
I looked to my comrades on the left and right and whispered, “This is too inviting. I got this and don’t worry.” I began my speech. “Gentlemen, your concern is quite understandable. You would think that most of us would prefer a lady friend or lover to resemble our mother or big sister. That would be the case if the local population could offer that. Instead, we are matriculating in a vast Black female desert. Where are the Black girls? They are not here and that leads to errors in our decision making.
If there were enough Black females on this campus our decisions would be logical and clear. What we have here is poor decision making by the administrators of this great institution. Fill the halls with Black females and there would be no ‘date the white girl problem.’ Go into your recruitment budgets and populate our halls with young, vibrant Black females and this problem will take care of itself. Your concern will go away the moment you have a very proactive Black female recruitment program. In other words, the ‘fish’ aren’t biting, because there is no fish in the water.”
I had no idea that my spiel was going to resonate and cause positive action. It was two semesters later that the reaction started to take form. Walking up Bascom Hill and crossing through the main thoroughfares of the UW campus made it quite clear – Black females have arrived!!! It became one of my greatest victories in public advocacy.
Most of the new “sisters” were coming in from the Southeast. The two largest Black sororities — Deltas and AKA’s — started blowing up in attendance and social functions. The bland UW social life started to receive a new “coat” of soul and ebony.
Wisconsin started building a new reputation for the “party life” as recruits of all colors lined up to come to Badger Country. Our sport teams started to improve – especially in football and basketball. It was no more being in last place in the Big Ten. It was the trailblazer and stoic representative. Wisconsin has become a natural choice for the refined Black collegiate athlete. Just to think that little brainstorming I had back in 1969 has made a giant difference. I am so proud of my Alma Mater. It is now like M.C. Hammer would say: “You can’t touch this!”
Fifty years later and look at the beauty. It only takes a little creativity and imagination!
GO BIG RED!!!!!
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, president of the National Black Chamber of Commerce ®. www.nationalbcc.org firstname.lastname@example.org
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