Earl Graves Jr. does what he always does in his speeches: lets the facts speak. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)
The Rev. Dr. Roz Nichols makes her point about the importance of Earl Graves Jr.’s message. (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

Earl G. “Butch” Graves Jr. was praised as the Southern Heritage Classic’s best speaker ever by the Rev. Dr. Roz Nichols, who gave the benediction at the Coaches Luncheon at the Sheraton Friday afternoon.

A long-term measure of Graves’ effectiveness will be to what extent those who heard him pass along what he said and do what he asked of them.

The chief executive officer and president of Black Enterprise told the audience heavy with supporters of Tennessee State University and Jackson State University that support for historically black colleges and universities absolutely had to include putting money into the coffers of the HBCUs.

There were African Americans in the banquet hall that did not attend an HBCU and Graves made it clear that the essence of his message also was for them – buy with your people and do it as a way of life.

Graves, who is on the Autozone Board of Directors, gave a set of facts buffeting the value of HBCUs. He noted that 23 percent of all bachelors degrees, 13 percent of all masters degrees and 20 percent of all professional degrees and more than 50 percent of all African American professionals are graduates of HBCUs. Also, more than 50 percent of the nation’s school teachers come from HBCUs as did half of the Congressional Black Caucus.

“This is all great and should be celebrated by all of us,” Graves said. This is the disturbing news: currently only 7 percent of the graduates of HBCUs actually contribute back to the universities. This is unsustainable and it cannot work.”

Many of those who crowd into Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium for 29th Annual Southern Heritage Classic Football game will spend more on their outfits for the game than they give to their colleges, Graves said.

SHC founder Fred Jones Jr. said the keynote message reminded him of why he founded “The Classic.” (Photo: Karanja A. Ajanaku)

“It is irresponsible. And what happens is that we become comfortable as time goes on in expecting the state and what others are going to do for us. You cannot expect those who do not look like you to do more for you than you do for yourself.”

Speaking directly to HBCU grads, Graves closed with this :

“If you haven’t done it (contributed), don’t be embarrassed about it. Call the development office…write a check to Tennessee State University. Write a check to Jackson State University.

“Invest back in the very people who helped you.”

Coaches Luncheon Photo Gallery — Photos: Karanja A. Ajanaku