Melva Robertson is a 2001 graduate of Morris Brown College. She holds a master’s degree in professional writing from Kennesaw State University.
The AJC has reported that Morris Brown is more than $30 million in debt to at least 200 creditors. The debt includes $13 million in bonds issued in 1996 through the Fulton County Development Authority, payment on which creditors are moving to get via foreclosure. When the bonds were issued, college officials used property as collateral. According to Fulton County tax records, the 131-year-old school owns 20 parcels on campus. The total fair market value of the parcels — many of which are boarded up, abandoned or burned out — is $33,583,400.
Robertson wrote a piece to rally fellow Morris Brown supporters in the face of the college’s desperate financial plight:
By Melva Robertson
As a Morris Brown College alum and former Marching Wolverine, whenever I hear someone ask the question, “What are we gonna do?” I automatically recite the chant that we (the MBC Band) would recite every week before we began our halftime show.
Seconds before the show began, right before the Drum Major called us to attention, a random band member would yell, “What we gone’ do?” Instantly, the entire band would yell, “Pick up your feet, play your part, drive, drive, drive.”
Next they yelled, “How?” We yelled, “Together!” They’d yell, “When?” We replied, “Now!” At that point the drum major would call us to “attention” because we were now focused and ready to begin.
That’s been a tradition for years at Morris Brown, but it was more than just a dramatic band ritual to begin a halftime show. It reemphasized a culture that was instilled into generations of Morris Brown students.
Morris Brown is a school that teaches students the value of hard work. We were taught that no matter the situation, if we are tenacious and motivated, we will be successful. Never give up. This is why the school won’t just “close its doors” as so many have suggested. To do so directly contradicts the principles of Morris Brown College.
People always ask, “what are we gonna do,” regarding MBC. My suggestion: “Pick up our feet, play our part, and drive, drive, drive.”
Pick Up Our Feet: In the band that means that you can’t drag your feet. You must be precise. The formations and sound aren’t clear if you are not standing tall, marching high, and moving with confidence.
The same holds true now. We must communicate with pride and confidence that MBC will recuperate. We must prove that Morris Brown is not closing and will fight until our goals are achieved.
Play Our Part: In the band, each part is important to the success of the band.
In the current situation, “play your part” simply means, “do your part.” Everyone has a part in restoring Morris Brown because everyone has reaped the benefits of what this school has produced. The graduates make a difference daily in lives, communities, and businesses all over the world. Therefore, the world has a part in this new movement whether through donations and fundraising, volunteering, or simply eliminating negativity. Whatever it is, we all have a part. We cannot dwell on “how” this happened. Let’s just take actions to fix it.
Drive, Drive, Drive: That means to simply keep the momentum going. On the field, intense energy and momentum keep the crowd’s attention. The crowd must not walk out.
We cannot lose momentum in this fight for Morris Brown. When Morris Brown’s financial woes are no longer the top story in the media, we will still need people generating a buzz about the school and how to help.
“Drive, Drive, Drive” also means that sometimes you have to be a little ahead of the beat in order not to slow down. We, as supporters of Morris Brown have to stay one step ahead at all times. Strategy, implementation, and repetition will not only keep MBC on the radar but also achieve success.
Now after the chant, that random band member asks:
“How?” How are we going to do this? Together is the answer. Now is not the time to point fingers, bail out, or be divisive. We are in this together and only together will we be able to win. One person cannot save Morris Brown College, it will take everyone; but MORRIS BROWN COLLEGE CAN BE SAVED!
“When?” We start NOW. Halftime has begun and it’s time to take the field. We need everyone to pick up your feet, play your part, and DRIVE! DRIVE! DRIVE!
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog