“I’d sum it up in two words, ‘Black joy,’” said Jackie Wilson II, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for BSE Global, parent company of the Brooklyn Nets, following the team’s exuberant celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). While Wilson did not attend an HBCU he is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi, one of the Divine Nine, a group of Black fraternities and sororities that performed the Divine Nine Stroll at halftime.
“I think that it is our responsibility in the diverse borough of Brooklyn to use our platform to amplify the culture, but also bring awareness and educate,” said Wilson. “I was especially looking forward to my fraternity brothers coming in and showing up.
“This is not a check-the-box activity,” he added. “We’re looking to have a lasting impact and use our platform to really bring about meaningful change.”
Throughout the month of February, the Nets celebrated Black History Month with a series of United Games honoring the legacy and impact of Black pioneers. On Feb. 24, before the game the team hosted a panel discussion about HBCUs for nearly 1,000 local students followed by an HBCU College Fair at which 16 institutions took part.
“The topic was about the HBCU experience and how it shapes young Black minds and empowers them,” said Wilson. “We talked about the support system that oftentimes exists within HBCUs. It’s bigger than coming there for an education. It’s coming there for holistic learning to help you become a more empowered person.”
Hampton University alum Yakik Rumley said the event recognized the history and the culture of the HBCU experience. He spoke with high school juniors, seniors and their parents at the College Fair. “It was exciting and I felt proud,” said Rumley. “Watching the Divine Nine Stroll brought me back to my college days, seeing all those people step.”
At the conclusion of the panel discussion, historical questions were posed to the students in attendance. Those who gave correct answers were given a free admission waiver to apply for the common application for HBCUs. Also, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund gave a book scholarship.
“We have several employees, including a member on my team, who graduated from Florida A&M University,” said Wilson. “Those employees were at the Florida A&M table not only talking about how Florida A&M set them up for success, but also changed the way they viewed themselves.”