Memories of Homecoming at Historically Black Colleges and Universities

“Let the show begin.” “Homecoming at a historically Black college and university is everything.” “Homecoming itself — it’s like being baptized in Blackness.” “It’s almost a ritual. It’s almost like church.” “It was a culture shock for me, personally, because I haven’t really been to school with so many Black kids. And then to see them just doing all of these great things, I was just like, ‘Yeah, this is it.’” “Homecoming is a definite pick-me-up.” “Homecoming is literally what the word is.” “Going back.” “You go back every year.” “Even go back to how you were in college, and no one’s going to judge you.” “There is a buzz in the atmosphere.” “The vibe.” “The vibes were unmatched.” “It is just the absolute best thing ever.” “So not being able to do that, especially during such a difficult year —” “We actually won’t get to physically see each other in person, but Tuskegee’s doing a virtual homecoming. So we don’t know what that’s going to entail, but I’m excited.” “Five, six, seven, eight — one, two, three, four, five, six, grab seven, up eight — yeah, so anybody has any questions for the routine?” “This is the only area I could get internet reception. Do you want me just to type it in the chat?” “Yes, type it, because your service is still kind of going in and out.” “I think it’s a lot tougher than in person. It looks totally different, it feels totally different. And that is hard, doing it virtually, but I believe something epic will come out of it. Just give us a little bit of distance between your bell and the microphone, OK?” “Good, good, good, approach, good steady articulation. And I don’t know if you saw me out of the corner of your eye —” “They call me the Old Man, the Grandpa. Technology was a struggle. So I had to move out the way and, hey, OK, let’s set up the Zoom meeting. OK, I’ll make you a host, I’ll make you a host. We don’t want to sit and waste the time of the students while I’m struggling in there. I started at the university in 1995, so this is year 26. So I would imagine 26 homecomings — pray my math is right.” [singing] “I did a little research and discovered that the tradition of homecoming has its origins in alumni football games since the 19th century. From that, many of the traditions that we are familiar with evolved.” “Every day of the week leading up to homecoming, there’s always some event at an H.B.C.U.” “So you have pep rallies, step shows.” “Bands, cheerleaders —” “Like a gospel brunch or something —” “There’s the homecoming fashion show, which is always a very hot commodity.” “Coronation, the homecoming parade on Saturday morning — you also have, of course, the game, the halftime show.” “We really, really love to party.” “Passing out Jell-O shots at 10 o’clock in the morning.” “People say they don’t remember the week at the end of the week.” “Sunday, you’re like.” “Your outfit has to be just so.” “We tend to have outfits that match.” “You’ve got to come, and you better come correct. I tell all the chicks, every now and then, ‘Look, if it wasn’t for me, you wouldn’t be walking around with that little bikini on.’ So we were flag girls, and we wore full uniforms. So I said, you know what? We’d get a whole lot more attention if we had our legs out. So one night, we slipped into the band hall, got some old band uniform, and made hot pants. And on Homecoming Day, we marched in front of the infamous Marching 101 Band with our legs out. And we did it in fine style.” “So for me, it represents the opportunity for women to try to own who they are. When we started out in 1983, we didn’t really know what we were doing. And so we really created our own genre — some ballet foundations, and you’re doing some lyrical and jazz. And you’re incorporating some hip-hop. If you ever see any of the dance squads, it is a separate genre. It kind of bothers me when people downplay the importance of women expressing themselves through dance, because it’s just so much more than that.” “At all H.B.C.U.s, we are very family-like.” “It was like having a second family.” “I thought I had sisters that I just never met before. I thought I had brothers that I just never met before.” “Anyone who goes to Howard is my cousin. Somewhere down the line, like, ‘Oh, you went to Howard?’ Like, ‘Hey.’” “So Kamala Harris being the V.P. nominee is very exciting.” “And the Howard community — when that was announced, oh, my friends were so annoyed with me, because they will never hear the end of that.” “Homecoming is actually a very contested topic in my house, because my dad went to A&T, so, you know, they have ‘G.H.O.E.’ — the ‘Greatest Homecoming on Earth — so they say.” “Oh, no — whoa — I’ll be honest with you. I do believe that every homecoming brings something different to the table.” “But I know that ours is the best.” “Virginia State University has the best homecoming.” “So when you go to homecoming, it’s all about F.A.M.U.” “I don’t know about F.A.M.U., but I know Hampton and Howard — we have this ongoing rivalry with each other.” “We go back and forth with, who’s the real H.U.?” “Ludacris said, ‘I’ll never miss a homecoming at Howard … so.” “You know, it’s so hard for me because, you know, people know that my daughter went to Howard.” “I get excited. I get turned on, because if you think yours is better, come to the table. Let’s do this. Let’s do it. Let’s duke it out.” “Yeah man, see like, this right here, this says, ‘Morehouse changed my life.’ Man, that’s for real.” “If I had not gone to South Carolina State University, which is a H.B.C.U., I would not be as bold as I am.” “We hear a lot that H.B.C.U.s do not prepare you for the real world, because it’s not realistic. And you’re never really going to be somewhere where it’s going to be majority Black people. And I fully 100 percent agree with that, but —” “You have to maintain a connection to your history, because if you lose that connection, it’s hard to rebuild.” “There was a time we couldn’t attend other schools, period.” “You really get to be judged on your character. You don’t walk in the room and people are like, ‘Who’s that Black girl?’ Because everybody in the room is Black, so.” “Once I graduated from Hampton University, my entire work career was me being in the minority.” “If I’m sitting at the conference table, it’s usually me, one Black female, OK?” “They instilled in me that you need to go above and beyond what others do, because you’re going to be viewed a different way, right?” “But when we go home to homecoming, we can express what has occurred to us in corporate America. And corporate America doesn’t always listen.” “You don’t feel like you have to code switch. You feel like you can be yourself.” “It is family.” “Family reunion — that’s exactly the vibe.” “Just think of it like a yearly family reunion of the family that you really like, right?” “So it’s bigger than the party.” “And to bring all Black people back to one place, because, you know, we go through a lot, as it is. So to have that one weekend to just, like, have fun, it’s really a beautiful event. And I think that’s why it means so much.” “But I think everybody is already geared up for 2021.” “Please let us be able to — I don’t know if we can do two years, I don’t know.” “The comeback is going to be real.” “You know, it’s just an opportunity to up the ante.” “And that’s what we do at the H.B.C.U.”

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