Dallas Morning News Article on Black Institutions

For a decade beginning in 1992, the Bishop Five Plus One’s yearly revival drew spirited choirs and what radio host Willis Johnson called “soul-saving” sermons to Dallas. The idea was to bring together six excellent ministers, five of whom graduated from historically black Bishop College, for a spiritual fundraiser. The money went to Paul Quinn College, another predominantly black school that in 1990 moved into Bishop’s former campus in southeast Oak Cliff.

Now six years after the final revival, the Bishop Five Plus One will return to Dallas to raise money again for Paul Quinn. The events begin Sunday and run through Nov. 14 at Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in Oak Cliff.

Despite my enthusiasm for the Bishop pastors’ reunion, I’m deeply saddened when I consider the fate of Bishop College, which closed in 1988 amid financial problems, and the current challenges faced by Paul Quinn. Just look at the pedigree of the Bishop Five – which includes Dr. Frederick Haynes III, the Rev. Denny Davis and Dr. Kerry Wesley – and you might ask how in the world a school that turned out pastors such as these would have to close in the first place.

The answer to that question is entwined in this one: Why are African-American institutions valued so little and so greatly misunderstood? Why are the very things that helped to build a strong foundation for our generations virtually ignored?

Paul Quinn College is the oldest historically black college west of the Mississippi. And it’s not only an important part of black Dallas, it’s important for all of Dallas. For instance, one of the biggest misconceptions about black colleges is that only black students attend them. Anglo, Latino and Asian students all reap the benefits of such schools.

Paul Quinn and its president, Michael Sorrell, deserve the backing of the entire city – and will need the support of the entire city to flourish. That’s the reason Mr. Johnson is bringing back the revival for one last run. He says, “Paul Quinn is struggling as much now as it was then.”

Speaking of Mr. Johnson, the morning-drive radio host on KKDA-AM: Black radio is another undervalued institution. Since WDIA-AM in Memphis became the first radio station programmed by African-Americans in 1954, the medium has been used as a tool for social service and social justice.

Dallas has been at the center of the black radio boom dating back to the 1970s, producing some of the best-known on-air talent in the country. Tom Joyner, who made a name for himself at K-104 FM, currently broadcasts his morning show to millions of listeners in 115 markets nationwide. And he has raised millions of dollars through his foundation for historically black colleges, including Paul Quinn.

More recently, Rickey Smiley and Michael Baisden have found ways to successfully entertain and inform their listeners through their nationally syndicated radio programs. Both men were out front on the Jena Six case, with Mr. Baisden helping organize a successful rally in the small Louisiana town. Now both men are strong advocates of Barack Obama’s historic run to the White House. Mr. Joyner, Mr. Baisden and Mr. Smiley all produce their shows here in Dallas, but relatively few are aware of what they are accomplishing nationwide.

Historically black colleges and universities and black radio are just two categories of African-American institutions that don’t get the recognition they deserve. And yet both are critical in unique ways for educating and bettering the lives of African-Americans. Paul Quinn, in particular, needs support, not skepticism. The Bishop Five Plus One pastors will be doing their part beginning at 7 p.m. Sunday. What about you?

For more information about the Bishop Five Plus One revival, go to www.afmbc.org.

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