Commentary: HBCUs' Future at Stake in Fight Against Segregation

J. Wyndal Gordon | 2/6/2012, 9:54 a.m.

Thank you [Marvin] Doc Cheatham of the National Action Network (NAN) for being an ardent court observer of the HBCU litigation in downtown Baltimore, U.S. District Court of Maryland.

Cheatham was invited by me to speak with the Monumental City Bar Association's (MCBA) general body on Jan. 26 to give members details on the case and to explain the import of supporting and participating in this most crucial litigation of our time. Our mere presence in the courtroom as conscientious observers was all that he had asked in exchange for the information shared.

On Jan. 31, I accepted Cheatham's request, walked down to the federal court and spent the entire day observing, and I was glad I did. The case was truly a clash of the titans. It was so intriguing that I couldn't leave until the day was almost done. I urge anyone who believes in justice to do the same.

The HBCU litigation is serious. It is the Brown v. Board of Education of our day and is being watched all over the country by everyone except, perhaps, by those it should matter to the most -- us. The plaintiffs, Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education (Coalition) consists of Maryland's four HBCUs: Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

They are represented and lead by none other than the esteemed nationally renowned civil rights attorney, John C. Brittain, Micheal D. Jones, et al. The defendant, State of Maryland (State), is being represented and lead by Craig A. Thompson, Kenneth L. Thompson, et al. The identified cast are well respected attorneys on a local and national scale, joined at center court for a battle royale -- and they happen to be African Americans pitted against one another in a fight for equality that would make Armageddon seem like a schoolyard tussle.

I do not believe a single spectator in the entire courtroom was disappointed by the performances on both sides of the trial table. Not to mention Craig A. Thompson and Kenneth L. Thompson are erstwhile members of MCBA, although I firmly believe they are on the wrong side of this issue.

Be that as it may, perhaps the most obvious and strange irony of the day was remembering when Craig A. Thompson hosted the radio show "The Front Page" on Morgan State University Radio WEAA, 88.9 FM. I used to listen to the show and it was actually pretty good. Interestingly, he's now fighting to maintain vestiges of segregation at the very institution that was at least partially responsible for his professional development.

This is not to single out and slight my good friend Craig. I have a great deal of respect for him, his body of work, and stellar accomplishments --but it is a fact that is undeniably newsworthy and worth mentioning.

Arguably, it either shows him to be the consummate professional who believes that everyone is entitled to competent legal representation, no matter how unpopular the cause, --including the State of Maryland, or that he has come back to dine off of the hand that once nourished him. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I just happen to be Morgan State University alum.