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HBCU Homecoming

COVID-19 can’t stop virtual homecomings on HBCU campuses

Students, sponsors and celebrities find ways to keep the party going

There aren’t homecomings on the campuses of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) because of the COVID-19 disruptions, but that hasn’t stopped lots of virtual celebrations throughout the month of October.

These celebrations run the gamut, from Howard’s virtual Yardfest hosted by Omari Hardwick and niece Ravyn Harwick to a Support Black Colleges event repping HBCUs, hosted by Darren Brand and Pretty Vee, to this weekend’s “HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me on the Yard” show.

Florida A&M in Tallahassee, Florida, one of the few HBCUs with students on campus, is part of the “Meet Me on the Yard” event. FAMU’s famed Marching 100 has been invited by YouTube to participate in that virtual show. It will be hosted by La La Anthony and rapper 2 Chainz and livestreamed at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on the YouTube app.

The cancellation of HBCU homecomings has disappointed many. However, Mr. FAMU Kimani Jackson and Miss FAMU Erika Johnson have been working to ensure that students have a memorable homecoming experience. So far they have hosted a virtual candidate pageant in hopes of completing their 2020-21 homecoming court.

FAMU, along with Howard, Alabama State, North Carolina A&T and Southern, have participated in an HBCU virtual tailgate, sponsored by Chevrolet. Broadcast on Facebook Live, it has been hosted by North Carolina A&T alum Terrence J. It began the weekend of Oct. 3 and includes HBCU news and interviews, food giveaways, virtual performances and weekly sports updates. It will return this weekend, Oct. 31 and Nov. 7.

The Marching 100 will have other virtual performances this fall, including “The Farewell Tour,” a tribute to the schools in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference which FAMU is leaving at the end of this school year. These performances will take place in Bragg Memorial Stadium, according to band director Shelby Chipman.

Homecoming-ISH at Hampton

Hampton’s “Homecoming-ish” virtual homecoming started on Oct. 19 and ends on Sunday. There are a number of virtual events planned for students and alumni.

The week kicked off with the Mr. Pirate Pageant in which Hampton’s Mr. Pirate 2020 was crowned. On Oct. 20, there were events including HamptonYOU roundtable talks, HBCU 101 with Hampton alumni DJ Envy, a State of the University town hall meeting with president William Harvey and the showing of the Miss Hampton Pageant, where the new Miss Hampton University was crowned.

On Oct. 21, there was the HU Marching FORCE Homecoming Traditions Show, where the drum line opened for 2 Chainz. The night concluded with the Miss Hampton Coronation.

On Friday, there will be a celebrity sports panel featuring NBA star Chris Paul and NFL legend and new head coach of Jackson State Deion Sanders. No homecoming is complete without a football game, so Saturday at 2 p.m., ESPN+ will air a replay of last year’s Chicago Football Classic against Howard at Soldier Field in Chicago. Later Saturday, there is the virtual concert featuring Germaine, Mulatto, Blac Youngsta, Moneybagg Yo, Ari Lennox and 2 Chainz.

Wrapping up the week Sunday is a virtual gospel program featuring pastor Dharius Daniels and performances by Koryn Hawthorne, Kierra Sheard, Marvin Sapp and Kirk Franklin.

COVID-19 couldn’t stop Yardfest at Howard

Similar to other institutions, “The Mecca” was forced to move its homecoming festivities to a virtual setting.

Yardfest, an event held during homecoming, is usually attended by tens of thousands of school alums, students and visitors. This year it was moved from The Yard to your computer screen.

Hardwick co-hosted the event with his niece, Howard junior Ravyn.

“Of course, would have preferred the in-person setting, ” said Rayvn Hardwick. But she believes it was still great that Howard kept the traditions alive by making it virtual. She called it “innovative, exciting and different.”

In an effort to match homecoming’s usual mic-dropping performances, Atlanta artist 6Lack and Houston artist Tobe Nwigwe performed on the virtual stage. Throughout the virtual show, students and other prominent alumni, including actor Lance Gross and author Tiffany Jackson, recalled some of their favorite Howard homecoming memories.

Hundreds of attendees in the virtual audience were asked to donate to the Howard University 100 Alumni Giving Campaign to provide students with scholarships for next semester.

A panel highlighting Black entrepreneurship closed out virtual Yardfest. It was led by Howard alumna AJ Ross, with guests Karen Civil, DJ Envy, Broccoli City Festival co-founder Marcus Allen and Essynce Moore.

At Morehouse, Miss Maroon and White was crowned

As virtual learning continues at Morehouse College, school president David Thomas made it a point to emphasize brotherhood and community. Homecoming week was no different.

The first events took place on Oct. 8 when the college hosted its 84th Miss Maroon and White pageant. The contestants are women from Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University, and Morehouse students get to vote for who they want to represent them. This year’s Miss Maroon and White is Jaylyn Riddle from Atlanta, with the first attendant Alanna Beasley from Lake Charles, Louisiana, and the second attendant Asheé Grocé from San Jose, California.

Morehouse and Spelman’s collaborative group known as P.U.L.S.E. (Planning Unique Activities for a Lively Spelman Experience) also collaborated to host a virtual concert. Over the years, the students have had major acts come in, such as Travis Scott, Lil Baby, H.E.R. and Young Thug. This year, P.U.L.S.E. managed to get Wale, who performed for students live via webcam.

Prairie View had Panther Spirit week instead

Prairie View A&M decided to go in another direction when it came to celebrating homecoming week.

The big change? Not having one. Instead, Prairie View A&M came up with a weeklong substitute: a Panther spirit week.

Throughout what was supposed to be a week of parties and events doused in school pride, students were invited to take part in virtual activities that began Oct. 12 and lasted through Oct. 16. The Office of Student Engagement put together a list of activities that allowed students to celebrate and show how they embody their school spirit while also observing COVID-19 safety precautions.

On Oct. 13, students participated in a Decorate Your Dorm competition. Students were able to show off their dorm style and show their peers how they stay stylish and comfortable in their homes away from home.

On Oct. 14, students took part in a Virtual Humpday celebration. Humpday, a midweek event that usually takes place every Wednesday in the campus courtyard, is a time for students, Greek-letter organizations, athletes and others to come out to enjoy music, dancing and socializing as they take a break from classes.

On Oct. 15, students came together for a virtual watch party of Beyoncé’s 2019 film Homecoming on Netflix. And Oct. 16, the Panthers ended spirit week with a virtual concert performance by Houston native, singer-songwriter Lenora.

Clark Atlanta University names HC court

Clark Atlanta University kicked off its homecoming week celebration, running from Oct. 16 through Nov. 1, with the virtual 5K that was hosted by the Clark Atlanta University Alumni Association.

Every year CAU has its annual homecoming crowning of Mister & Miss Clark Atlanta University and Oct. 22, the royal court crowning ceremony was held. Although this year is very different, the same energy, excitement and love was shown virtually as Darius Roddy-Moore, the second Mister Clark Atlanta University and Amiya Crockrom, the 32nd Miss Clark Atlanta University were crowned. “Honestly, it meant the world to me,” said Roddy-Moore. “Coming in as a freshman, I never thought that I would be where I am today, but I knew that I wanted to etch my name is CAU’s rich history.”

Aretha Bernard, the 31st Miss Clark Atlanta University, and TeJordan Carter, the inaugural Mister Clark Atlanta University, took their final walk as the king and queen before officially handing over their crowns. The entire 2020-2021 royal court was also officially crowned. On Friday, CAU is having a Friday night live alumni experience. This “party with a purpose” will feature renowned alumni DJs, drop-ins from notable alumni and more. While there cannot be an in-person concert, there will be a “Zoomcoming” concert.

Marissa Stubbs is a junior broadcast journalism scholar from St. Petersburg, Florida. She is the assistant sports editor for The Famuan, Florida A&M’s school newspaper, and a sports reporter for athletics.

Parker Owens is a senior communication studies major and journalism minor from Broward County, Florida. He is a news and sports writer for Morehouse’s The Maroon Tiger and a contributing writer for NewsOne.

Alex Williams is a sophomore broadcast journalism major and sports administration minor from New Orleans. She is a sports writer for Howard’s The Hilltop newspaper, along with being the sports editor for Her Campus magazine (Howard chapter).

A U.S. Navy veteran, Jonathan Scott is a sophomore journalism and communications major from Brooklyn, New York. He anchors and produces for The Scripps-Howard News Watch, on WHOV-TV, Hampton's broadcast station, and is the production assistant for the Hampton University Athletics' TV show, Respect The H with Eugene Marshall, Jr.

Jayla Jones, a junior business management major from Chicago is a game and feature writer for the Prairie View A&M athletics department. She has written for the student newspaper, The Panther, and enjoys telling athletes’ stories.

Ashton Edmunds, a senior mass media arts major from Tallahassee, Florida, is the sports editor for The CAU Panther newspaper, an intern for The Atlanta Voice News Network and also an inaugural Turner Diversity Fellow at WarnerMedia.