HBCU’s, Homecoming, and Nostalgia

The smartest decision I ever made was attending Morehouse College. 

I haven’t been able to make the trip to Atlanta for my alma mater’s homecoming since Obama’s first term in office. I hate not being able to attend; but I absolutely love seeing everyone’s pictures on social media.

I don’t have too much of a reference about homecomings outside of my high school and Historically Black Colleges Universities (HBCU’s), which is the kind of institution I attended for undergraduate studies. For those reading who have not attended or don’t “get” the purposes of HBCU’s, it’s very difficult to explain past “My college experience was just like A Different World.

My first experiences at a HBCU were at Delaware State University in the early ‘90’s. The influence of A Different World drastically increased enrollment at these institutions and my aunt was right in the middle of it. My family would drive from New York to Dover for homecoming every year and the experience left a lasting impression on me. My first experience of a school marching band was the DSU Hornets playing the newest hip hop and r&b of the time and the audience reacting to it…that made every concert and marching band I played in corny after.

As a kid from Queens who wanted to play basketball, St. John’s University was where I wanted to attend. Soon as I decided that was no longer for me, the memories of those October afternoons in Dover influenced me enough to say “I’m going to Morehouse.”

Nine years after graduation and 13 since my freshman year, college concurrently seems like a lifetime ago and yesterday. Come to think of it, the freshman class was Cydney’s age when I moved to Atlanta. I’m so far removed from that time period; The A is a very different place. Nonetheless, seeing my former classmates with the backdrop that I first met them in sparks nostalgia. 

What makes HBCU’s such a wonderful place are the people we encounter during our tenure. We traveled from all over the country and diaspora to get an education and share this very black experience: each other. No matter where we came from-geographically, socially, economically, etc.-we all shared a common bond in the struggle. America is a place in which we often have to mask aspects of our personality for one reason or another. So our first taste at actual adulthood is being our unabashed black selves in an unapologetically black place; because unless it is in our homes, we will never have that again.

Our homecomings are one large family reunion. For a weekend we return home: see our former selves in the young people walking around and fellowship with people we have all but forgotten; but had that one crazy night with and never saw again, and so much more. Social media has allowed us all to see each other slowly evolve and it’s always great to actually converse with each other in person.

Said evolution is the best part of it all. On my phone or computer I have watched my peers slowly age. We’ve mostly assimilated into our careers, gotten married, our appearances are different, many of us had children with other classmates and it’s nice to see how much they look like the two people we once knew, and what have you. Some of the extra fun is seeing two people who hardly knew each other in college somehow wound up as some sort of significant other.

I can’t help but laugh at the last paragraph because I know that while I have observed literally all of the above, I know that others have seen me be every last one of them in some capacity or another. Life takes us all on paths we didn’t have mapped out when our world and the future were full of ideals and very little application. I’m almost certain no one thought the skinny kid with braids and oversized clothes that and did recorded mixtapes out of his dorm room would be #SoccerDadChronicles. That’s a story we all have in common, so it’s great to see photos, posts, and videos in the flesh for context into others and ourselves.

This is the time of year in which television stations like VH1 and BET play Drumline and Stomp the Yard ad nauseam. Networks know that it’s the end of homecoming season and those two movies in particular highlight some aspects of the HBCU experience. For most viewers, it is entertainment into a world they have never experienced; for others, a reminder of the good ol’ days. For me, those-as well as A Different World and School Daze-are the latter. All are based on and filmed on a campus I frequented in 2003-07. 

The other day, I watched fifteen minutes of Stomp the Yard and remembered going to the theatres to see it. I remember them filming on Morris Brown College’s campus in the summer of 2006, all of the Greeks shouting as their sororities and fraternities appeared onscreen. Hell, that movie in particular, I see several people I personally knew have their few seconds on camera just being themselves.

While I couldn’t make it this year, I am more than thankful to everyone who shared pictures, posts, and other various forms of content. More than likely, I will be there next year and bring Cyd.

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