As a result of COVID-19, HBCU students, faculty, staff, alumni, and fans alike were discouraged at the amount of traditional homecoming activities that were forced to be held cancelled, if not held virtually. However, social media platform Youtube recently stepped in to help fill the void with “HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me On The Yard”, a livestream fundraising event that aired on October 24, 2020.
One of the notable aspects of of the livestream were the number of people, including the host, who were alumni of an HBCU, a testament to its value. There were performances by 2 Chainz, Saweetie, Chloe x Halle, Ari Lennox, NLE Choppa, Ty Tribbett throughout the 90-minute event, with Desi Banks, Pretty Vee, and Lance Gross sprinkling guest appearances throughout.
Louisiana State Representative and Southern University Alumni, Ted James, was featured in the livestream, taking the opportunity to talk to students about HBCU history. Among the topics discussed included the important roles that HBCUs play in allowing people of color access to the right to vote. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed in 1960 at Shaw University, to help students organize sit-in movements throughout the south. Members apart of the SNCC also participated voter registration drives to unlock the political power of African Americans across the south.
After the conversation on the importance of HBCUs, alumni and college students discussed how attending an HBCU made a difference in their lives. Kaylen Harris, a third-year student majoring in chemical engineer, says that after watching a couple of snippets throughout the livestream, she agrees with many alumni.
“There were certain parts of the video when they would discuss how attending an Hbcu changed their lives, and it got me to thinking how Southern changed mines. I feel even more confident within myself being surrounded by other educated people with the same color as mine,” said Harris.
The livestream ended with 2 Chainz preforming “Money Maker” with Alabama State University's marching band. 2 Chainz is one of many artists who have put HBCUs in the spotlight recently. Shawn Rivals, a second-year student mass communication major noted how he’s he's happy that celebrities are helping to putting HBCUs on the map. “From the time Lizzo came here to shoot her video, I knew that celebrities that have made it in the Black community do care about us. Hopefully this will influence other younger people to attend HBCU,” said Rivals. Lizzo notably filmed a music video on Southern’s campus that was released last December.
While there is no clear picture as to when homecoming events will be able to be reestablished in their traditional formats, the assistance from YouTube and celebrities in keeping the HBCU names afloat during this time will go a long way maintaining fan and alumni participation once normal operations resume.