The Centenary Biblical Institute was founded in 1867 by the Baltimore Conference of Methodist Episocal Church. With a mission to educate men, and eventually women, the grounds of this institute would transform into a space of Black power, healing, and values for generations to come. 

That institute, founded in the heart of East Baltimore, became the illustrious Morgan State University. 

Tuesday night, a shooting at one of MSU’s freshman dorms during Homecoming Week became yet another example of how gun violence can pop a bubble of Black celebration and camaraderie. 

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Homecoming at Morgan is special: Think go-go music non-stop, and witnessing Baltimore friends buss the two-step once a week every single October. Yes, the Morgan Mile comes together, and celebrates what it’s like to be a part of such a great community. But instead, a university that has educated hundreds of thousands of Black folks, is coming together to say a prayer for the safety and peace of current students.

Video from inside the dorms reveals the trauma a generation of Morgan students will have to cope with — not just from the shooting, but also having SWAT teams, guns drawn, going room-to-room hunting for the shooter. 

Footage from the Morgan State dorms

I’m a 2021 Morgan graduate so I know first-hand that being a part of the Morgan community is to understand a few non-negotiables:  First, you go to the best HBCU in America. Second, you attend school in Baltimore, so unless you come from an urban area, assimilating as both a student and resident might be difficult. And lastly, there is indeed a history of isolated incidents of violence that have occurred that don’t reflect the values of the university, and yet shake the community up as a whole. 

I was headed to Morgan this weekend for the Homecoming festivities, and those plans are now up for debate. 

However, I’m also thinking of how last year Morgan announced that it will open a medical school in 2024, the first HBCU to do so in nearly 50 years, and yet this shooting made national headlines faster.

Violence on Campus

In my senior year, I was the campus news editor for the MSU newspaper. But my very first story I ever wrote for the paper was in 2019, about how a classmate of mine was shot and killed outside an off-campus housing complex — so the PTSD is real, and I know everyone is in shambles right now.

This latest shooting took place as students were leaving the coronation ceremony, which crowns the Homecoming Kings and Queens of the University – including the Miss and Mister Morgan State University. The shooter left four men and one woman wounded with non-life threatening injuries, according to Police Commissioner Richard Worley. 

I live in Brooklyn, but as an active Morgan alumnae who mentors a freshman, my email is still in their system. I got notifications within FIVE minutes that there was an active shooter on campus.

A shelter-in-place was issued for the campus, and people were encouraged to stay away from Thurgood Marshall Hall and Murphy Fine Arts center. The shelter-in-place order was lifted just before midnight, after SWAT teams cleared the building they believed the shooter ran into. 

No one has been apprehended. “For those who decided to come onto this jewel of a campus, and inflict this pain and trauma on their community — we’re going to find you. We won’t stop,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said at an early morning news conference.

When Will Morgan State Make Headlines for the Right Things? 

“Be careful how you talk about my school,” one Morgan-affiliated user of X, formerly Twitter,  wrote on Wednesday morning. “Morgan State University provided me with skill, knowledge and experience to be the man I am today. The career and academic opportunities that MSU offered me I’m forever grateful and thankful.” 

Indeed, 156 years after being founded, the 9,000-student school has plenty to celebrate beyond our annual homecoming. 

Along with Morgan’s Maryland College of Osteopathic Medicine being set to open in 2024, this year MSU President David Wilson was awarded the Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Prize, what some call the “Nobel Peace Prize of education,” for exhibiting excellence in innovation, inspiration, and impact in education.  He is the first HBCU president to receive this honor.

In addition, although Morgan was a focal part in the landmark HBCU Coalition lawsuit, and it is  constantly reinventing what safe spaces for LGBTQ+ identifying students look like, the university doesn’t make headlines nearly as much as it deserves. 

But now, the location of the shooting — E Cold Spring Lane and Argonne Drive — a place that is traditionally jam-packed with energy that radiates from the roots our ancestors sowed — is lined with police cars and news reporters.

I know Morgan is not perfect. In July 2019, sophomore and peer mentor Manny Luis was gunned down and killed after welcoming the latest cohort of students to campus. In December 2022, rumors quickly circulated that there was a verbal threat stating a student would “shoot up” the Office of Human Resources. 

But as Jordan Shepherd, 2019-2020 Vice President of the MSU Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, wrote on Instagram, “The real problem that should be talked about is that people can not handle their issues without picking up a gun. That is a MAJOR problem, that has nothing to do with Morgan State University.” 

America’s horrific gun violence epidemic sees our loved ones senselessly gunned down over petty disputes — and has, in recent years, seen white supremacists shoot and kill nine Black elders in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, kill 10 Black folks shopping for groceries in Buffalo, New York, and gun down three people shopping at a Dollar Tree in Jacksonville, Florida.

So tell me a place in America where these kinds of gun-related incidents don’t happen? I’ll wait.

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