There's Nothing Quite Like A HBCU Homecoming, Here's Why It Matters So Much To So Many

By Jamar Hudson / @jamarhudson

In the summer of 2000, before I left for college, my dad did what most fathers do with their sons. He pulled me to the side to have "a talk."

We'd had similar discussions before, but this was different as I was preparing to leave home for an extended amount of time for the first time. His words weren't unfamiliar to most. You know, "watch your back," "keep your head in the books," "protect yourself" and "don't forget who you are and whose you are."

However, one of his final and most passionate pleas to me was to be sure to enjoy myself and make the most of this opportunity, because it would be the best years of my life and, before I knew it, it would be over. I heard him, but I wasn't really listening. At 18, I was feeling myself a bit, and my eyes were set on heading to Hampton and getting started on the next chapter of my life and finally being on my own.

Now, fast forward 15 years later, here I am writing this piece while wondering where the time went.

That shocking reality check of time gone by is numbed by the fact that we are in the middle of homecoming season, a series of weekends where alumni, young and old, make the annual trip to their respective alma maters to catch up with old friends, reminisce about the good ol’ days, tailgate and party.

Oh, and maybe catch a few snaps of the football game.

Or nah.

At the very simplest of levels, we are coming home.

The HBCU homecoming has been a staple in the Black community for years. Yes, it was a thing before the Internet and social media age. For years, when HBCUs were the only option for many generations before us, the old schoolers could sit for hours on end and share stories in an environment that wasn't filled with racial tension that many of them encountered on a daily basis.

And when Biggie dropped his famous line “Ain’t no telling where I may be, may see me in D.C. at Howard homecoming…,” the phenomenon that many of us already knew through personal experience, began to transition into a “mainstream" event and destination for not only students and alumni, but up-and-coming artists and established celebrities.

But to many, the idea of homecoming seems foreign. Some have even suggested that, at a certain age, the thought of making the annual pilgrimage back to D.C., Hampton, Petersburg, Langston, Greensboro, Atlanta and Tallahassee, to name a few, shouldn't even be on our radar.

I beg to differ.

While officially, homecoming is set aside for alumni to return for all the previously-mentioned reasons, because of what most of us experienced during our four, five and even six years on the yard, it's more than just an excuse to spend some money and party for a weekend. See, over the course of time, from the moment many of us made the decision to attend an HBCU and stepped foot on our respective campuses, we went from being strangers from all over the country and different walks of life to becoming brothers and sisters, best friends, business partners and, in many cases, husbands and wives and parents.

We are, and forever shall be, family bonded by our love for our school and each other. We've been there to celebrate in each other's high points in life and have borne each other's burdens doing hardships and unexpected tragedies.

So yes, after beginning this journey as teenagers, we now, as adults, come back together every year to party, drink, and embellish how well things are going for us and, for 2-3 days, pretend we are not as old and washed as we really are. We'll take pictures, share laughs and hugs, talk about how things have changed on campus and perhaps attempt to rekindle an old flame that we thought had long been extinguished.

Then, when we get ready to check out on Sunday, probably hungover and tired, we'll leave with a smile on our face and memories to last a lifetime. And before we even get back to our destinations, we'll start thinking about how we can top it next year.

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