SF State President Leslie E. Wong and Rev. Amos Brown shared the pulpit at Third Baptist Church for the 12th annual CSU Super Sunday, to discuss the importance of higher education in the African American community.
CSU Super Sunday is held each year at more than 100 California churches during the month of February. The purpose of these events is to engage directly with California churches serving predominantly African American congregations and to provide avenues and information for youth and adults to enroll and succeed in college.
Brown addressed more than 100 people in attendance about the issues facing members of his community and talked about the widening wage gap in San Francisco between African American and white communities. He lamented about the respective median income being less than $30,000 for black residents, while white residents maintained a median income above $100,000.
Brown was one of the eight students in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s only class at Morehouse College. He has been the pastor at Third Baptist Church since 1976 and served on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1996 to 2001.
In response to which group he thinks would suffer most with rising tuition at colleges, Brown answered that it was usually African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinos that would be most affected by tuition increases.
Wong was welcomed to the stage after Brown and explained that college is accessible, affordable and a pathway to success. Wong, who is an Oakland native, told the congregation in his speech that “it is never too early to prepare for college or too late to return.”
When asked about higher tuition increases before the Sunday services, Wong lauded SF State’s affordability amongst the enrolled students at SF State. Later on, the congregation applauded his claim that 52-55 percent of all students were receiving enough grants and financial aid to pay for their education.
“Three-in-five students have their tuition fully covered by financial aid at San Francisco State University. And this is a big part why most CSU undergraduates who earn their bachelor’s degree have zero debt loans upon graduation,” Wong said.
He also said most undergraduates with families making less than $70,000 have their tuition fully covered.
Brown commended Wong as a “scholar” and “social engineer,” and complimented him for making sure their partnership succeeds to “provide affirmative actions to enable those who are behind to run faster and catch up in all areas of academic achievement.”
The luncheon after the sermon, hosted by Brown, offered more opportunities for families and children to chat and sit down together with current and former SF State students. Posters and fliers were passed around regarding the online admission process and career opportunities offered at SF State.
When asked about the role of religion and education, Brown stated a necessary “firewall” should exist between church and state. He also criticized the appointment billionaire businesswoman Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education, and the false perception of wealth and success.
“We better put our money where our mouth is,” Brown said. “And we have spent too little on education. We have spent 15 percent of the U.S. budget on defense, armaments, killing people and only 2 percent on education.”
After the sermon and services concluded with music and songs from the church choir, everybody in the hall went to the gymnasium and networked with SF State students. Parents and children were able to meet personally with Wong and SF State alumnus from the community.
“I think it really helps to expose a lot of the church members or people that think they can’t go to San Francisco State,” former SF State student Delores Johnson said. “It really lets them know it’s a school in their neighborhood, in their city, that they can go to and get the same education that they could get out of state.”
Johnson noted that tuition is more expensive now than when she started at SF State. She thought about the wage gap Brown mentioned in his sermon; however, she still believes SF State is affordable today for future students in the community.
“With the access of financial aid and Pell grants, I think that’s a big plus for students of color in the Western Addition, where I’m from,” SF State alumni Geneva Morgan said. “Of course it’s not as cheap as it was when I was there in the 80s, but I think given the cost of living and the economy it’s very affordable compared to other states I’ve been to.”
In December 2016, 5 percent of first-year students, who identified themselves as black or African-American, were enrolled at SF State, according to data provided by CSUmentor.edu.
“The benefit of Super Sunday is (that) you’re exposing young people of color at an early age, to let them know that college is something that they can enroll in, an education is something they can achieve,” Morgan said.