By Cash Michaels
In the aftermath of Shaw University’s impressive sweep of the men’s and women’s CIAA Basketball Tournament championships last weekend, there is growing support behind an effort to have both the city of Raleigh and state of North Carolina honor the historically black university with a “Shaw Bears Appreciation Day Parade.”
“They won the CIAA Conference Championship, so just like everyone else that wins, they get a parade and a day for them to celebrate,” wrote Lavada Hobbs on a special Facebook page. “So why not give Shaw U. the same? Let’s show our support for our HBCU...Stand up people!”
“The other NC Universities (NCSU, UNC and Duke notably) when they excel in sports and other things they get recognized,” says Shaw alum Gary Mayo from New York, also on Facebook. “African-American achievements get buried! The parade can be limited to around the campus area, we are not saying shut the city down, but acknowledge the positive! In addition we the Alumni do support our alma mater. Yes we could do more! This institution has been around since 1865 and is still producing positivity.
The proposed parade, suggested for a Saturday to be determined, would recognize not only the dual CIAA Division II conference basketball crowns, but also Shaw’s earlier CIAA football and tennis championships.
“…[N]o school of higher learning, at any level, anywhere in America, has accomplished [this],” wrote Southeast Raleigh businessman Bruce Lightner, who suggested that idea, in a March 7 email to Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker, City Manager J. Russell Allen, and copied to a large number of public officials and community leaders, including Gov. Beverly Perdue, state Sen. Dan Blue and state Rep. Rosa Gill.
“This is reason for Raleigh to celebrate and show recognition for an excellent sporting program and Shaw's dedication to working with young people even during difficult economic times,” Lightner continued. “This comes to "get the wheels turning" and to seek your approval and support for the City of Raleigh and State Of North Carolina to host an "Appreciation Parade" for all four teams with a parade down Fayetteville Street. Ideally, the procession would depart from Shaw's campus at Estey Hall and proceed to Fayetteville Street and head north to the State Capitol Building where Governor Perdue and Mayor Meeker would congratulate the teams.”
With the idea spreading like wildfire on social media outlets, it may be hard for the governor and the mayor to say no.
The Shaw Bears and Lady Bears thrilled audiences at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte last Saturday. The men’s team clinched a close one over rival Livingstone College, 72-69, to win only its second CIAA basketball championship ever.
They are the No. 4 seed in the first round of the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Championship and will face No. 5 Winston-Salem State University in West Liberty, West Va. Saturday.
Meanwhile the Lady Bears defeated the Lady Golden Bulls of Johnson C. Smith University, 62-56, garnering their sixth CIAA basketball championship in the past nine years. They will face top Atlantic region seed Edinboro University in Edinboro, Pa. on Friday.
“With the sweep of the tournament,” writes sportscaster Donal Ware of the nationally syndicated radio show ‘From the Press Box to Press Row,’ “…Shaw University has done something that no other CIAA program has ever done: win all three major sports championships – football, and men’s and women’s basketball – in the same athletic calendar year.”
Former Raleigh City Councilman Brad Thompson, in a written response to the many he forwarded the Lightner recommendation to, wrote, “I am sure that you, like me, are proud of the athletic achievements of Shaw University and are willing to support this initiative. If you are supportive, let somebody know.”
Indeed Lightner’s email is being widely circulated throughout the community, and on Facebook, to generate support.
Normally when an area high school or college team wins a state or regional championship, they are recognized by the City Council. A national championship title, and the team may be feted by the state Legislature.
Recognizing a school, and particularly an historically black university for four regional championships in the same academic year, however, hasn’t been done in recent memory. Lightner and others say in light of Shaw’s success, the time is now.
If there is a parade, it most likely will be scheduled for after the NCAA Division II contests, depending on how far the Shaw men’s and women’s teams go.
If one of them, or both of them wins a national championship, a city and state parade, and more, is almost certainly assured.
On a special Facebook thread setup by The Carolinian to get comment on the Shaw Bears parade proposal, the support was overwhelming.
“Not a bad idea,” wrote Eric Curry of Raleigh. “I'm not sure how a parade would fit in the scope of the celebration, but I think a ceremony should be conducted somewhere in the heart of the city and NOT on campus. WHY? We need to bring the good news of what's going on at Shaw to the city. Hold it on Centennial Plaza, on the State Capital Grounds (facing Fayetteville Street) and bus in students, the band, alumni, etc. Now that I'm thinking about it. Start the short procession, including the band from the Progress Energy building straight down Fayetteville Street and ending in front of the Capitol. Make people notice!”
Edith Lee Thorpe wrote, “YAHOO!!! I'M IN!!!! Shaw University was the first college established for African Americans in the Southern United States. Were it not for Shaw University other HBCU's like NCCU would not have been founded when and how they were. There is a long strong lineage between Shaw University and other HBCU's that exists because of Shaw University’s graduates. There have been many accomplishments, numerous successful graduates and major feats for this small University in SE Raleigh, NC, no matter the challenges, it still continues to flourish and grow. Among it offerings, is its Divinity School which I believe has played a major role in it's founding and its continued existence. The prayers and the good works of those associated with this institution have been its foundation and will continue to sustain Dear Ole Shaw U!”
“I was in attendance at last week’s CIAA games and festivities,” wrote Nicoletta Peebles on the special Carolinian Facebook page. “I support and am extremely proud of any accomplishment of any college, but most notably MY alum, Shaw U. It's important to acknowledge the successes in our communities because as we well know the negative reports take priority. It is just as important that we display the pride that we once did for our HBCU's to perhaps build more support for their diminishing images. GO BEARS!!!”