Providence is great, but mortal giving is divine, too

April 06, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

PROVIDENCE provides, but let's look for some more earthly providing first.

"Providence provides" is how St. Frances Academy Principal Sister John Francis Schilling concluded Sun reporter Laura Loh's story in yesterday's paper. Camille Cosby, wife of some curmudgeonly comedian named Bill, donated $2 million to St. Frances. Interest on that money will pay for 16 scholarships to attend the school.

Those scholarships will be around "in perpetuity." Or as long as St. Frances lasts, and that's going to be a while. The school, run by the Oblate Sisters of Providence, has been in the business of educating black folks since 1828. It's not going anywhere.

The goal of officials at St. Frances - located in the heart one of the poorest, most crime-ridden sections of inner-city Baltimore - is to raise $5 million for a total of 40 "in perpetuity" scholarships. Sister Francis is confident that "Providence" will provide that extra $3 million.

You've got to admire that kind of faith. But before we look to Providence, let's look for some human assistance.

Let's challenge folks to do what the Cosbys have done: put their money where their mouths are. The Cosbys have done that for years, notwithstanding the criticism that Camille's hubby got last year when he dared criticize some poor black folks for not holding up their end of the education bargain.

Bill Cosby's critics reacted with horror. How dare he criticize poor black folks?

Well, since the Bill Cosby bashers claim that poor black folks are so near and dear to their hearts, here's their chance to help some, the way Camille Cosby has done. They can start by sending a sizable donation to the school whose 325 students come mostly from families that live below the poverty line. Ninety percent of those students are accepted to college and 75 percent of those are the first to attend college.

From the years 1985 through 1998, 70 percent of St. Frances alumni earned a college degree.

Those are some of the reasons Camille Cosby donated $2 million to St. Frances. That, and "to support a proven solution that gives hope to the crisis-ridden American educational system," according to a statement released by Joel Brokaw, who is a publicist for Camille and Bill Cosby.

The key words in that quote are "proven solution," which means Camille Cosby has the curious notion that educational institutions should have some accountability. That brings us to our next group of earthly donors who should rush to help St. Frances: those opposed to public money being used for school vouchers.

These would be the folks who, until the No Child Left Behind Act required it, demanded absolutely no accountability for public money used for public education. That didn't stop them from piously intoning that public money should be used for public education only, not for private education.

Fine. St. Frances needs $3 million more private dollars. Those opposed to school vouchers - especially the ones who send their own kids to private school - might want to donate some of their dollars to the East Baltimore school run by the Oblate Sisters.

There are some really affluent blacks who can step up to the plate the way the Cosbys have. Black athletes immediately come to mind, since they're raking in millions, thanks to some courageous African-American athletes - Oscar Robertson in basketball, the late Curt Flood in baseball and John Mackey in football - who preceded them.

In fact, the National Basketball Association, the National Football League and Major League Baseball should all institute a policy: fines imposed on black athletes will be donated to schools like St. Frances Academy. Just think how much the school could have raked in from that donnybrook in Auburn Hills between the Detroit Pistons and the Indiana Pacers alone.

Blacks in entertainment - and I'm thinking rappers and some of today's R&B singers here - have caused so much damage they should pay a huge debt to schools like St. Frances for years to come.

I won't bother to rehash some of the lyrics from the more risque of today's rap tunes. (They couldn't appear in this paper anyway.) But when group's like Destiny's Child sing about "soldiers" with "street cred" and "hood status," something is wrong. If those three young ladies really want to praise something that has "hood status," they can make a hefty donation to St. Frances. The school's had "hood status" for 177 years.

Likewise Fantasia, last year's American Idol winner who's been running around singing about the virtues of out-of-wedlock motherhood, can pony up some money to the Baltimore institution that wants to make sure its young women don't end up like she did.

Once the bucks from all these folks are added up, we'll see what's left for Providence to provide.

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