It’s a Different World: The HBCU Homecoming Experience
Homecomings are that time of year when American high schools and colleges participate in what are usually weeklong celebrations centered around some founding date or event.
And then there are homecomings held on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) that takes the experience to an entirely different level. The way in which I like to explain it is to close your eyes and imagine what a living screenplay would look like if written by George C. Wolfe and Ta-Nehisi Coates. It’s the fall start to our summer’s spent at the Essence Festival and in Oaks Bluff. No matter which of the country’s 100 or so HBCU’s you attend, the celebrations are generally the same.
But there is something about homecomings at Howard University that makes the experience just a bit…different.
For most goers it comes down to two days – Friday’s Yardfest and Saturday’s tailgating. Coordinating committees expend considerable effort attracting some of the nation’s best talent. This year’s Yardfest headliner was a well-respected face among all music fans. Common took the crowd through a fast-fueled delivery of some of his best hits. Yet, it wasn’t until he freestyled a Luke Cage-like 16 bars of lyrical genius did he remind us why he’s not just an artist but also one of the most gifted thought leaders in the industry.
God created black people and black people created style. – George C. Wolfe
….And no one kills the game better than we do
Style isn’t limited to just what we wear. It’s in how it’s worn. You can’t walk onto an HBCU campus and not see lost video footage from Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair.
Or scan the crowd and check out some of the strongest beard game.
Homecomings can take on yet other meanings – as narratives reflected in our spirit of song. You can soak in the experience of witnessing hundreds of black men linked in solidarity and singing their fraternal hymns.
It’s a moment of solemnity, expression of brotherhood, and a recommitment to the service and scholarship.
Five of the nine black Greek letter fraternities and sororities (The Devine 9) were founded on the campus of Howard University, including Delta Sigma Theta.
There are many things about experiencing homecoming at Howard that makes the sojourn to our nation’s capitol well worth the trip – at least once. You’re much more likely to understand why the characterization of it as the Mecca is well deserved. It’s not simply about knowing you are standing in the shadow of buildings where Thurgood Marshall worked to draft the legal strategy for Brown v. Board of Education, or that it holds one of the world largest repositories of the global black experience.
Howard University also happens to be located in a city home to a current trifecta of blackness; the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial; our nation’s First Black Family; and most recently, the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
It’s a different world from where we’ve come from…