Celebrities and Athletes Team Up to Host a Virtual Telethon to Benefit HBCUs and Minority Students amid COVID-19 - Black Enterprise

Celebrities and Athletes Team Up to Host a Virtual Telethon to Benefit HBCUs and Minority Students amid COVID-19

Students participating at the BE SMART HBCU Academy Tech Prep (Black Enterprise)

College students, especially those at HBCUs, are being hit hard by COVID-19. For many of them, the freedoms of being away at school, pursuing their dreams on campus, and college life as they once knew it have come to a screeching halt as the doors of campuses closed.

For those reasons and more, NBA veteran George Lynch, Tracey Pennywell, co-founder of HBCU Heroes, and Ryan Johnson, Executive Director of Cxmmunity, have partnered to host Tech 4 COVID, a two-day virtual telethon to benefit HBCUs and students of color at various colleges and universities on May 2-3.

At a time when many students and their families around the nation are facing food, housing, and financial insecurities, the trio of entrepreneurs and way-makers decided to work together with their celebrity friends for a greater good. The fundraiser is expected to reach over 30 million people and raise over $3 million. All of the proceeds will benefit student-athletes at HBCUs, as well as underrepresented K-12 schools, complete remote learning.

Celebrities participating in the Tech 4 COVID event include Offset, Jeezy, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, Eddie Griffin, Bill Bellamy, Blair Underwood, Malik Yoba, Desi Banks, Dionne Warwick, Dean Crawford, The Hamiltones, Mr. Serv-On, and more.

Tech 4 COVID
(Image: Tech 4 COVID)

Paying It Forward

In a statement released by Tech 4 COVID, Lynch, the NBA veteran and former head coach of Clark Atlanta University’s men’s basketball team, said, “We’re pulling out all the stops for this virtual telethon. HBCU student-athletes and K-12 minority students need this movement to galvanize help. I’ve witnessed dozens of student-athletes scramble during this pandemic to get laptops. Many of them were using school computer labs or the library and now they have to find their own technology resources. Something has to be done.”

To that point, Pennywell added, “Our goal is to ensure all HBCU athletes have the resources they need to compete academically and athletically. No student-athlete left behind.”

Many students are impacted by the digital divide and the group and supporters are insistent on helping to close the gap.

“It’s important that we do not allow HBCU and minority students to be affected inadvertently by this pandemic. By supplying computers for these students, this partnership is keeping them properly equipped during these ever-changing times,” said NFL veteran Everson Walls, a former Grambling State University student-athlete.

Johnson, who is an HBCU graduate of Oakwood University, said, “This is a phenomenal opportunity to leverage entertainment, esports, and music to increase awareness for this amazing cause. The esports industry has been an amazing resource for nonprofits who are able to leverage the industry properly to do good.”

Monumental Support for HBCUs

In addition to the support of celebrities and former athletes, JP Morgan Chase is supporting the effort through its Advancing Black Pathways initiative. Programming will also include discussions on STEM led by Tuskegee alumnus Dr. Lonnie Johnson, inventor and aerospace engineer.  Milton Little of United Way of Greater Atlanta, Tirrell Whitley of Liquid Soul, and Jeff Clanagan of Codeblack Life will also lead discussions on strategies to support HBCUs, tech, and more.

The star-studded event will also include–and be supported by–a number of media personalities and influencers to help get the community and the nation engaged in supporting students of color.

The event will be live-streamed May 2-3 from 12 p.m.to 12 a.m. EST both days, on Twitch, Kevin Hart’s LOL Network, NFL Alumni’s ESTV, Codeblack Life, Instagram Live, YouTube, Facebook Live, ESPN Syracuse Radio, HBCU go TV, Black College Sports Radio, Axis Replay, and more.

To read more about how COVID-19 is impacting communities of color, click here.