Since COVID-19, she’s had to get creative. “Some of it I’ve customized on my own, which I’m not really sure is legal because obviously I don’t have the licensing for it, but that’s a whole other thing,” Mays laughs. “I have a great embroidery team, and I’m creating graphics and using the logos and the messaging from the school in order to make a cool sweatshirt or a t-shirt or whatever it is.”
Before he went down to Florida for the NBA restart, Paul had eight gigantic duffel bags labeled and plastic-wrapped with every outfit he’d be wearing, down to his pajamas. “It was pretty intense,” Mays said. But even more shipments need to be made, and she’s in constant contact with Oklahoma City’s equipment manager in order to get Paul certain items. The one minor hitch is that packages sent to the bubble can’t be overnighted: There’s a cautionary sanitization process. “It’s a whole stressful system,” Mays said.
While in the bubble, Paul hopes to organize a call with players who’ve shown an interest in supporting HBCUs and improving their facilities. According to Mays, there’s also an apparel line in the works “to make sure every school has something that’s cool and has been curated by Chris and I.”
Paul is also set to produce a docuseries about the challenges HBCUs face when competing against PWIs in the world of sports– everything from recruiting to the general allocation of resources. “We wanted to be able to tell the stories from their lens, through their eyes, and give people insight into what it’s like to be at an HBCU,” Paul said about the upcoming project.
“I don’t necessarily believe in segregation by any means,” Mays said. “But I do think that we should look to a Morehouse and say it’s just as good as a Michigan. We should look at FAMU (Florida A&M University) and say it’s just as good as a UPenn. As a Black person, if you choose to go to an HBCU you should know that you’re getting the same education that you would somewhere else.”
Despite declining enrollment numbers, according to the United Negro College Fund, as of 2015, 70 percent of Black doctors and dentists, half of all Black engineers and 35 percent of Black attorneys are HBCU graduates. Last year, the FUTURE Act was signed into law, guaranteeing permanent federal funding to HBCUs and other institutions that are largely minority. Several schools that were in danger of making severe budget cuts were spared. But a lot of damage has already been done. In the last two decades, several HBCUs have either lost accreditation or were forced to close, while more still find themselves in perilous situations. In 2012, 28,000 HBCU students were denied loans, resulting in a loss of approximately $155 million in revenue.
“I went to one of my little cousin’s graduations, from North Carolina Central,” Paul said. “And I was talking to someone about the funding and how a few HBCUs at the time were in the possibility of going under. And that’s always the case. Meanwhile, lo and behold, Senator Kamala Harris is the product of an HBCU. Howard University. So at some point change does occur. Why not now?”