Honoring Black History

Homecoming: A closer look at an HBCU Tradition

Local News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — As we reflect on impactful moments and people during Black History Month, the importance of Historically Black Colleges and Universities cannot be overstated.

Commonly referred to as ‘HBCUs,’ the schools became essential avenues to higher education during segregation.

As years have past and the opportunities for higher education have expanded, HBCUs have also adapted. A number of them now include diverse student bodies, but one thing that hasn’t changed is what Homecoming means to these institutions.

8News recently teamed up with Radio One’s Clovia Lawrence to bring you the story of Homecoming — through the eyes of Virginia Union University.

“It’s a big family reunion,” Joseph Taylor, VP of Athletics & Community Wellness at VUU explained. “People are back, and there’s just nothing like an HBCU Homecoming.”

Homecoming at HBCUs are much more than just a football game: It’s a time to connect with family and friends — no matter if you were on campus in the 2000s or 1980s.

“Why do I come back to homecoming? I come back so that I can re-establish my friendships, the sisterhoods, the brotherhoods that were established. The networking,” Tatia Gilstrap added.

VUU actually gave their entire student body off from classes to experience the events and activities they had planned, which spanned from entertainment to educational.

“One of the important traditions at a Historically Black College and University is to select the King and Queen,” VUU President Hakeem Lucas said. “The King and Queen dates back to the importance of African tradition.”

The 2019 Homecoming King and Queen beamed with Panther Pride during the annual festivities and said they felt ready to take on the world.

“Being in an environment where you’re able to grow as people, you’re able to learn from one another and you’re able to build off each other and create something in yourself you might not have realized in the real world,” Miss VUU ’20 Kamryn Young said.

And while the newly-crowned king and queen might just be getting started, there are others who have helped pave the way — like Carolyn Woolridge Jacobs, VUU Class of 1964.

“I would say to young people who are here for the first time, who are away from home for the first time, ‘enjoy your four years,'” Woolridge said.

It also wouldn’t be homecoming weekend at an HBU without a ‘step show.’

“All the style, all the grace, all the precision,” Lawrence said.

But you can’t forget about the big game, either. Or the crowds, fellowship, bands and cheerleaders.

“I don’t know how you can get to all of it,” Taylor added. “But it’s really a good time and it’s shared once a year and people look forward to it.”

This story was produced and edited by Radio One’s Clovia Lawrence and 8News Photojournalist Howie Williams — both proud graduates of VUU. Below they share some of their favorite photos from their time on campus.

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