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Pots And Pans

The real ‘HU’ is in our hearts — and on every campus

Howard-Hampton football games are about pageantry, bands and seeing folks

My wife and I occasionally take morning strolls. Sometimes, we look at each other and talk about how glad we were that our children attended Howard University. We smile at the close-knit village in Washington, D.C., that helped raise our daughter and son into their early 20s, guiding them to their college degrees in 2010 and 2016.

It occurs to me as I write this line that our parents might have had similar conversations about my wife and me and our alma mater: Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. My wife and I grew up at Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. It’s where we met one Parents’ Weekend, our parents introducing us: a meeting that forms the foundation of all the happiness I’ve enjoyed for 40 years. Hampton is where my wife and I began to plot our career paths, though she succeeded as a nurse before I found much success in journalism. It’s where my wife and I met people who became our oldest and dearest friends.

Because of my connection to the two schools, I think of both HUs and their alumni as mine, from Hampton’s Emancipation Oak to The Founders Library at Howard; Booker T. Washington to Toni Morrison. Further, I think of W.E.B Du Bois (Fisk) and Martin Luther King Jr. (Morehouse) and Marian Wright Edelman (Spelman) as belonging to me, their colleges, the nation and the world. For me, the historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) and their alumni are a part of one extended family.

Consequently, whenever I visit HBCU campuses, where so many generations of African-Americans and others have been educated, I sometimes ask directions to one building or another, but I know that I’m home.

On Saturday afternoon at 3:30, Howard (0-2) plays Hampton (0-2) in the AT&T Nation’s Classic in Washington, D.C. Some would call the game at RFK Stadium a battle for the title of the “real HU,” as if the score of a football game could determine the “real HU,” as if such a designation really matters.

But I never saw the two schools, founded in the 1860s, as rivals, at least not in the way Ohio State and Michigan are rivals in big-time college football, their games steel-cage matches on the gridiron.

Rather, Howard-Hampton football games, like contests between some other HBCUs, provide occasions to revel in the pageantry that colors many black institutions, including the black church.

Indeed, if there are HU bragging rights to be won on Saturday, they might be garnered at halftime when one aggregation or the other plays, marches, dances and twirls the other off the field.

In that contest, give me my HU with a high-stepping drum major.

A graduate of Hampton University, Jeff Rivers worked for Ebony, HBO and three daily newspapers, winning multiple awards for his columns. Jeff and his wife live in New Jersey and have two children, a son Marc and a daughter Lauren.