Moving Forward: St. Augustine’s president says there’s ‘something special’ in current movements

Moving Forward

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The world is changing in many communities, towns, and cities. A pandemic, race relations, and the struggle for social justice stand at the forefront of social consciousness.

Now the question is: “How do we move forward?”

“I grew up in Harlem in New York right at the crucible of the Civil Rights movement,” said Dr. Irving McPhail. “So, for me, learning about Dr. King and reading about the struggle and seeing the conditions that I grew up in in my community, the Civil Rights Movement was all about trying to establish freedom, justice and equality for people like me.”

McPhail was recently named the 12th president of St. Augustine’s University, which is a historically Black university in Raleigh. He participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Now he has a front-row seat to a new struggle for equality and social justice in America.

“There is something special that’s going on today. I’m feeling something different,” McPhail said. “I’m feeling a different kind of energy. I’m feeling a different kind of engagement of large groups of folks who have not recently been engaged as fully in the human rights movement, the Civil Rights Movement.”

McPhail is pleased with the variety of backgrounds and ethnicities on display in the protests.

“The level of passion that they’re bringing to the struggle, I think that really does suggest that perhaps we are in a pivotal moment in race relations in the United States,” he said.

McPhail said he doesn’t think people understand the pain that’s still felt by Black people because of racism.

“They don’t understand the contemporary impact of racism and injustice,” he said. “COVID-19 the disproportionate impact on the African American community and other communities of color. The educational disparities. Many people think, ‘Well, you know, we’ve come to an era of having President Obama. Everything is great. Everything is wonderful and the race question has been resolved.’ It’s not.”

McPhail said he believes education is a key to moving forward.

“I firmly believe the most fundamental of the Civil Rights is education,” he said. “I think what has happened is a result of the current crisis. Attention has been focused on education and particularly our nation’s HBCUs.”

McPhail also said he’s optimistic about continuing the conversation with the hopes of making change.

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