First-ever HBCU Classic tips off in Cleveland, highlights importance of historically Black colleges and universities

Published: Feb. 18, 2022 at 10:40 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - NBA All-Star weekend takes center stage in Cleveland. The league uses its platform to shine a light on historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs.

This weekend, the first-ever HBCU classic tips off, featuring Howard and Morgan State universities.

A Cleveland Cavaliers executive knows all too well the importance of HBCUs.

“HBCUs for me have always been a part of my life. I got seven generations going back to my grandmother,” said Kevin Clayton, VP of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement.

It’s a position he’s held since 2019.

After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, many companies created positions in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space.

For Clayton, this type of work has been a lifelong commitment.

“This has been my life’s work, and that is integrating communities, integrating organizations, integrating leagues, integrating organizations that are really focused on diversity and inclusion and equity.

“Hopefully, the work that we’re doing here in Cleveland will kind of be a beacon, a north star for other teams and other leagues. And that happens on a frequent basis, where we’ll get calls around, ‘Hey, what are you doing? How are you integrating this work?’ Particularly from those kind of newbies that are now beginning their journey in the DEI in our space in professional sports?

Clayton knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without the influence of his HBCU, North Carolina Central University.

“I didn’t have to feel less than I didn’t have to feel all that if I went to a majority school, all of those cultural nuances that would have been kind of on top of me just trying to make it through college and play basketball. I didn’t have to feel those things.”

On the flip side, there were challenges.

“The the challenge for HBCU as they historically have been underfunded, under-appreciated, devalued relative their curriculum,” he said.

However, this Kappa Alpha Psi man, which he proudly wears the founding date on his chest, said he would do it all over again.

“It’s an experience that I would never trade-in. Because it really helped my core of who I am just as a leader in the DEI space. And also from what I can do from the community standpoint.

And for the first-ever HBCU classic coming to Cleveland, this game has a far-reaching impact.

“It’s not just about the sports, not about the game. It’s about all those peripheral things that happen. So job fairs, college fairs, medical attention and focus on health industry, all of those things come with the HBCU game that we have.”

He has one message for Cleveland.

“Show up and show out.”

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