Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki announced Aug. 22 he will proclaim September as Historically Black Colleges and Universities Month in Wilmington.

The city’s celebration, the mayor said, is intended “to create more and more opportunities for Wilmington’s young people to attend college.”

For the third year in a row, Wilmington will host a weeklong series of events, from Sept. 15 to 21, to promote awareness among local students and their families about the importance of HBCUs. While Delaware has only one prominent HBCU — Delaware State University — there are 14 other Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Mid-Atlantic Region, which includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as about 85 others throughout the U.S.

This year’s #HBCUWEEK2019 will feature a live broadcast of ESPN’s “First Take” with HBCU Week Ambassador Stephen A. Smith at the 76ers Fieldhouse during the College Fair. The goal of the week is to engage the City’s HBCU alumni, as well as to introduce an expected 4,000 high school juniors and seniors to the mission, proud legacy and future opportunities offered by these institutions of higher learning. Smith and ESPN co-hosts Max Kellerman and Molly Qerim Rose are getting ready for a live broadcast from Wilmington of their weekday morning sports talk show, “First Take,” and they will be joined by bands from Delaware State University and Winston-Salem State University.

Purzycki said HBCU Week has been a very gratifying experience for all involved, and that the City’s efforts to promote HBCUs to local students have consistently exceeded all expectations.

“Last year, more than 1,500 students attended the College Fair, and nearly 700 received college offers,” said Purzycki. “Of those 700 applicants, some were admitted to an HBCU on the spot, and nearly 250 students received scholarship offers totaling over $1 million. As we increase the number of young people attending college, we are forever changing young lives and our communities for the better. We anticipate even more success stories in 2019.”

Another returning highlight from last year’s HBCU Week is the popular HBCU Battle of the Bands, which attracted almost 7,000 people to Frawley Stadium in 2018 at the conclusion of the week. The 2019 battle will be hosted by Blake Saunders and feature bands from Lincoln University, Winston-Salem State University, Hampton University and North Carolina A&T State University. Doors open at 2 p.m. and performances begin at 3 p.m.

Purzycki thanked the HBCU Week 2019 sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor JP Morgan Chase; The Chemours Company and ESPN; Live Nation Urban; Delaware State University and 38/15 Media; Toyota; and the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Delaware State University Executive Vice President and Provost Tony Allen said the city’s HBCU Week activities are emblematic of the ongoing importance of these type of institutions in America.

“HBCUs represent just 3% of all colleges and universities in America, but have produced more than half of the African American professionals in the country, including 50% of the nation’s African American public-school teachers; 70% of African American dentists and physicians; 50% of African American lawyers and dentists; 40% of African American engineers and much, much more,” said Allen. “As one example, in Delaware — a state with one of the highest African American populations per capita in the US – the lion’s share of college-educated African Americans are graduates of Delaware State University. But beyond just the numbers, if you believe in access to quality higher education regardless of where you come from, what you look like, or who you love, then we all owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America.”

Purzycki also noted that HBCUs play a big role in the everyday management of Wilmington’s city government. Six members of the Mayor’s administration are HBCU graduates including the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Tanny Washington, Norfolk State University; Special Assistant to the Mayor Ashley Christopher, Howard University; Community Referral Specialist Earl Cooper, Morehouse College; Commissioner of Licenses and Inspections Jeff Starkey, Hampton University; Director of Human Resources Charlotte Barnes, DSU; and Special Events Coordinator Tiffany Christopher, Howard University.

DSU joins the celebration with its own Homecoming activities on its Dover campus, highlighted by the University’s annual Prayer Breakfast on Sept. 20, a Homecoming parade featuring three-time Super Bowl Champion Johnny Taylor on Sept. 21 and the Homecoming football game with Howard University later that day. See the full schedule at desu.edu/about/homecoming-schedule.

For more, including a full schedule of HBCU Week activities and events, visit hbcuweek.org.