Homecoming the heart of HBCU’s: How COVID-19 has changed black college traditions


RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Though the pandemic has impacted almost every university in the country, right here in the Richmond metropolitan area, Virginia Union University is hoping to still have a little fun this year with their intramural flag football homecoming game.

Through grey and rainy skies, the Panther family came together to surge some normalcy back into the community.

The intramural flag football exhibition was open only to residential students to play and attend, since the CIAA suspended football this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

“It was sad coming back, wanting to see everybody,” Page-Morton said. “All my friends that graduated it’s a bittersweet moment, but the fact that they’re still trying to give us something it shows that they actually care about us.”

Rhauyan Page-Morton, a student enrolled at VUU said if you went to a historically Black college or university (HBCU), homecoming is like Christmas day for a kid.

“It helps brings our culture together and show that we’re more than just the stereotypes that everybody puts us to be,” Page-Morton said.

Usually homecoming for VUU is more than just what happens on the gridiron. It’s a time to feel the trembles from the bass in the band, a time to hear chants and songs from fraternities and sororities and a time to tailgate with friends and alumni.

And all of these memories were put in jeopardy when the coronavirus pandemic continued to progress throughout the year.

“Students were very disappointed about a lot of things regarding the fall semester,” Mayers said.

Brock Mayers, Dean of Students at Virginia Union says they wanted to make sure the students were able to have fun although circumstances are challenging right now.

“We thought it was very important to give our residential students this opportunity ” Mayers said. “Just to come together and enjoy some semblance of normalcy under these times.”

This year the reason behind the Panther’s organizing the flag football exhibition, was the intent on keeping the game as contactless as possible.

Page Morton says the flag football game was a good call by university administration.

“It’s worth the while,” Page-Morton said. “Despite the masks and being six feet they still try to make it and give us our regular college experience.”

Mayers said while students, alumni and community members were looking forward to being able to spend this homecoming season in a more traditional sense, this will work given the circumstances.

“It’s an opportunity for alumni to come back to give and donate,” he said. “Also for us to just come together as a university family.”

Safety is all that matters right now according to Page-Morton. She said if the pandemic persists like health officials are predicting, she says the university should plan ahead for next year.

“This gives them like a blueprint on what to do and how to build better for the years to come,” she said. “Knowing we don’t know how it’s going to go, but this helps gives that stepping stone to help build for better.”

VUU’s athletics department checked temperatures at the gate and streamed the exhibition on Facebook and YouTube for the community to view.

Virginia Union University will close out their homecoming festivities Saturday, October 11 at eight o’clock in the evening.


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