New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia is applying part of a donation to the church made by rapper Kanye West to establish scholarships at a historically black Christian college in Atlanta.
Pastor Jamal Bryant announced during New Birth’s 9:30 a.m. service Sunday that the Stonecrest-based megachurch donated funds given by West to create two new scholarships at Morris Brown College.
The scholarships are to be named after West’s mother, Donda, and New Birth first lady, Vanessa Long, the wife of the church’s late senior pastor Bishop Eddie Long.
Morris Brown College was founded in 1881 and is affiliated with the African Methodist Episcopal Church. MBC lost its accreditation roughly 17 years ago and recently regained authorization by the state. It now has about 40 students enrolled.
Donda West, who died in 2007, formerly served on faculty at MBC. Meanwhile, Vanessa Long is a graduate of MBC and served on the school’s board for many years.
Bryant told the congregation that the church asked that the funds for the West scholarship be earmarked for students studying in the field in which West taught.
“I know what Donda West represented while at Morris Brown and her mind for African American literature was to empower, equip and engage students to be something radical that could change community and change society,” Bryant said during the service.
“On this day, we want to open up, in the honor of Donda West, the foundational scholarship in her name. I am doing so on behalf of prayerful expectation, on behalf of her son who I am praying will, through the power of God, come back to rightful consciousness on what it means to equip and empower our people.”
Bryant said that it “dawned” on him in prayer after West visited the church last month and offered a generous contribution that West’s mother served as a professor at the school.
“I wanted to redirect some of those proceeds because I believe God is going to bless us to be a blessing,” he said.
“At New Birth, we don’t just talk the talk, we walk the walk, and we stand with Morris Brown as they begin to rebuild. We believe that just as God is going to bless Morris Brown, God is going to bless New Birth. I am telling you, we are more powerful when we work together.”
Last Friday, the college received notice from the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Commission on Higher Education that it has been authorized to serve as a higher education institution in the state.
The school had formerly been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools but had its accreditation revoked due to financial problems. Now, MBC is seeking full accreditation again through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools.
“It is a major step toward full accreditation. We switched our accrediting agency. We are going back to our roots,” MBC President Kevin James said during the service. “We were founded in the basement of Big Bethel AME Church.”
James said that since he took over the helm of the school in March, the college has raised nearly $500,000 but has a goal to raise $15 million to show the accrediting agency that it is “financially stable.”
A New Birth spokesperson told The Christian Post that the church does “not have any plans of sharing details about the financial contribution at this time.”
However, the spokesperson clarified that the donation to the college is a one-time gift as it stands right now, but there is hope that it could turn into ongoing financial support.
“That is, of course, to be determined,” the spokesperson said. “We just don’t know just yet.”
According to the spokesperson, the idea for the gift came after Bryant decided “he wanted to do something impactful.”
“Everything lined up perfectly because Morris Brown had already culminated their homecoming,” the spokesperson added.
“I think this gift is New Birth’s commitment to higher education and the [Atlanta University Center]. Bryant was a graduate of Morehouse College, which is a part of AUC. So he understands the importance of those opportunities, clearing the way and opening doors for young people to have a similar experience or even a better experience is important.”
About a month ago, at a service that later hosted West’s “Sunday Service” program, New Birth announced plans to build affordable housing for seniors and a medical facility on the church’s campus to serve those who are uninsured or underinsured.
During that service, the 42-year-old West, who says he has converted to Christianity, declared that he was following after God and that the “devil had me chasing a gold statue.”
Fellow rapper T.I. and his wife recently attended a worship service at New Birth where he was photographed scowling in response to a sermon on tithing that was being preached by Bishop I.V. Hilliard from Houston, Texas.
On his Apple podcast “Expeditiously,” T.I. said Hilliard “had the nerve to say ‘c’mon y’all. Get your blessings heard.’”
“Are you telling me, I have to give $1,000 for the good Lord almighty to hear my blessings? … that’s probably when I made the face, as he says 'get your blessings heard,’” T.I. explained. “This is extortion. At this point you’re telling these people they will not be blessed unless they give their money to you. And this is the problem I have with black churches. That was why I had that face.”