JCSU Receives Top Cash Award from The Big Payback Preparations Tour and Debate

Charlotte, N.C./April 3, 2023 – In late March, Johnson C. Smith University hosted Erika Alexander and Whitney Dow, co-directors of The Big Payback, a film focusing on the real-life application of reparations in Evanston, Ill.

Recently, Alexander and Dow announced its 2023 The Big Payback’s Top Honors list, which included a cash award to a select few of the 10 HBCUs in North Carolina that stood out during the tour.

JCSU won the top honor, The Top Super Big Payback. The cash award of $2,500 was donated to JCSU to be used in whatever manner it chooses.

“Words cannot express just how much it meant to the Johnson C. Smith University, family, friends and community to be able to have an opportunity to host The Big Payback family on our campus,” said Anthony Brown, director of Student Leadership and Engagement at JCSU. “We are extremely grateful to have been able to present on a topic that has affected so many lives around the world in the African-American community. I truly believe that this movement will become infectious to every human being around the world, and Johnson C. Smith University students plan to be a part of it.”

During the Big Payback Reparations Tour and Debate, JCSU students put on meaningful musical, dance and theatrical performances. The performances were followed by a data-driven academic presentation on student-proposed legislation – the HBCU Choice Bill.

Students Mariah Mitchell ’24, Gabrielle Rice ’24 and Mark Billups ’23 spoke passionately about the bill, which they had researched in classes taught by Dr. Laurie Porter, associate professor of Communications.

Porter said the award would encourage and mobilize students and the HBCU community to continue down the path toward getting the legislation in front of law makers.

“All eight participating North Carolina HBCUs made American history, believe it,” said Alexander in a note to participating universities. “You’ve changed the game, by taking on the topic of reparations for Black Americans and creating these historic HBCU debates.”

“Using song and dance performances, JCSU created a student-led, multi-layered and multicultural debate and presentation about the state of reparations in America and the effect on their school,” Alexander said about JCSU’s involvement. “Furthermore, inspired by Robin Rue Simmons’ story, they took the surprising, unprecedented and courageous step to advocate for themselves and their University by introducing a new initiative.”

Other winners included North Carolina A&T University (The Big Big Payback Honors) as well as St. Augustine University and Shaw University (The Big Payback Honors).

Read more about the reparations debate at Johnson C. Smith University on JCSU’s website.

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