A string of bomb threats have rocked the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities this year, prompting leaders from across the country to speak out against the violence. In an exclusive interview with Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, the Black Information Network learned more about the impact of these threats to our iconic institutions and their surrounding communities.
Mayor Scott is 73rd mayor to lead Little Rock, Arkansas, which houses three of the nation's more than 100 HBCUs –– Philander Smith College, Arkansas Baptist College and Shorter College. The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is located just about an hour south from Little Rock.
First hearing about the bomb threats to these campuses was "disturbing" Mayor Scott told the Black Information Network.
"It's definitely disturbing, disappointing, and shocking to get a phone call early in the morning from your police chief, letting you know there have been bomb threats" at Little Rock's colleges, Scott, who also serves at the First Vice President of the African American Mayors Association, said.
"To make those individuals phone calls to Dr. Rodrick Smothers, President Reggie Favors, and many others, that play a role in our community as higher education institutions, developing our youth and young adults, our most precious assets here in Little Rock and Central Arkansas," Mayor Scott added.
After making those calls, Mayor Scott says his office "propels into action" sending security and public safety to each campus to assist in evacuation efforts. Several HBCU campuses have gone into lockdown, canceled or postponed classes due to the threats.
A Heavy History
Given Little Rock's history of leading civil rights fights the bomb threats weigh heavy on the community at large.
"It's a shocking reminder," the mayor said, noting that many of the threats came in on the first day of Black History Month.
"We have equal access to education because of the Little Rock Nine successfully challenged the Brown vs. Board of Education, where nine teenagers walked the steps and the stairs of Little Rock Central High [School] being led by ... Daisy Bates, the only Black woman to speak at the March on Washington," Mayor Scott noted.
"Clearly there are deep roots that bring back reminders of the past, even as we're fighting the past to push toward the present," Mayor Scott explained, adding, "always acknowledging the past to make sure we don't repeat it."
"But we lean together and surround ourselves around one another to push forward," Mayor Scott said of the Little Rock community. "We double down," he added, on education, economic opportunity and "focusing on unity here in the city of Little Rock."
In the wake of the threats, the Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss federal support and action. Mayor Scott says he hopes federal partners "continue what they've done."
"Protect our cities, states, our entire nation, paying attention to the intel, figuring out ways to identify these suspects, arrest them and ensure that it ceases," Mayor Scott said.
The Little Rock mayor also extended his appreciation to federal government partners "both in law enforcement as well as in Congress" as the situation is addressed.