“Our children are our living messengers to a future we will never see,” said the great Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) was the same age as me (68)—and he fought and worked to the very end. Rep. Cumming and I graduated from Howard University in 1973; we’d entered in 1969, and lived next to each other in Drew Hall. We both attended many of the same classes and graduated in political science.
Howard University left me with an indelible mark of Blackness and rebellion that I carry with me each and every day. Our first year at Howard was extremely powerful, because President James Cheeks was inaugurated that year, and the students shut the school down with a sit-in. This occurred during the 1969–1970 school year and the student council had determined that the university was not relevant to the Black community in America and Black People in the world.
Howard University had a history of being full of an elite and bourgeois class of Blacks who had considerable wealth and status. Many of the students’ families were members of the middle class, and success was measured by the country club and community you lived and played in. But 1969 was a year of change, and Black Power and Pan-Africanism were the new mantra and movement that college Blacks espoused on every campus.
At Howard all the students were given a passing grade during the spring semester, and in the majority of classes there was a discussion of the role of Black institutions in education and improving the plight of the Black community. During this period the school housed some of the greatest Black minds in education such as: Professor Donald Byrd, Dr. Francis Welshing, Dr. Chancellor Williams, Dr. Ronald Walters, and Dr. Don Lee, all leaders in their field, internationally renowned scholars and activists.
A place with these great instructors and with students believing in the supreme authority of our race; this could only happen at an HBCU. These were the formative years for Rep. Cummings, and when we graduated, many of the graduates believed that we could change the world. HBCUs teach students to love the skin they are in, and to never forget where they came from.
Elijah Cummings lived in Baltimore and graduated from a high school in the city, and lived in the same community for 30 years. Howard University taught us all to be warriors, and improve our Black neighborhoods and the Black race around the world.
Cummings was an icon in the city and a political genius in Congress for 23 years. As a result of the congressman’s work the city has been transformed with a beautiful downtown harbor, and many of the neighborhoods have homes worth between $500,000 to 1 million dollars. I also owned a three family apartment house in the city, and when I sold it, the value had doubled.
There are still pockets in the city that are in bad shape, but the majority of the city is progressing and moving forward. Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “America lost a voice of unsurpassed moral clarity and truth with Rep. Elijah Cummings’ passing.”
In 2017 the congressman said, “He was living on borrowed time,” as a result of a heart surgery. The last time I saw Elijah was at a restaurant in 2003, where I was training to be a general manager for a company called Uno’s, and we talked for about five minutes. He treated me with ultimate respect, even though he was a leader of towering character and power.
Rep. Cummings was a Howard University alumni and a HBCU student who has left a legacy of greatness for all Black men to follow. HBCUs are rooted in faith, community and service, and for more than 100 years they have been giving Black students economic opportunities and instilling great values.
“Not only have they consistently produced leaders in their communities and across the nation, but HBCUs today are consistently and affordably producing the leaders of the future,” says President/CEO Dr. Michael Lomax of UNCF.
My dorm brother; Rest in Peace.