Homecoming is an essential part of the HBCU experience. Many describe it as one big family reunion, where current students and alumni can connect and celebrate their college years.
However, because of COVID-19, N.C. Central University opted to hold a virtual homecoming experience Oct. 31 -Nov. 6 for its 110th anniversary.
Many students said they did not participate in the virtual homecoming festivities and instead reminisced by posting pictures and videos from previous homecomings on Instagram. NCCU alumni also posted homecoming memories on social media.
“It truly hurts not being able to experience the Family Reunion that’s so dear to our hearts, “NCCU alumni Jamaal Searcy said, who served as the 2018-2019 Mister NCCU posted on Instagram.
“I look back and see that my time at NCCU, I’ve gained not only friends and colleagues but FAMILY & we might not all be together right now embracing what homecoming has to offer but we are here virtually (lol) & spiritually.”
The virtual celebrations kicked off with the 73rd annual Founder’s Day Convocation. It included remarks from Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye and the chair of the NCCU Board of Trustees, Kevin Holloway.
A performance by the University Chorale was followed up by the Truth and Service Ceremony, and the Wreath Laying Ceremony in front of the statue of James E. Shepard in the Administration Circle.
Golden Eagles inductees will be recognized at next year’s event according to Chancellor Ankinleye.
Saturday was “game day”. Angelique Stallings, a graduate of the class of 1997 and a former member of NCCU’s women’s basketball team, hosted a virtual homecoming livestream with alumni from Atlanta, Washington DC, Durham, and Los Angeles.
She asked them about their favorite memories at NCCU and what they would miss most about homecoming this year. Despite being miles away from each other, the alumni’s enthusiasm could still be felt through the screen.
A presentation of photos and clips from performances by the Sound Machine throughout the years substituted for half-time. Mass Communication senior and Head Drum Major, Alan Franks Jr., described the importance that the marching band has in instilling school spirit.
“It’s a part of our black culture,” Franks said.
“ The most essential key to having a real HBCU experience is an HBCU marching band.”
The last two homecoming events included the coronation ball featuring NCCU Royal Court and then a drive-thru Saturday on Brant Street for students to see the royals dressed in white and gold and wearing their crowns and dazzling masks to match.
The Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an organization dedicated to supporting HBCU students, also held a virtual HBCU celebration on October 25th with appearances from the NCCU Sound Machine and two NCCU Greek members.
The Rise Homecoming 2020 Concert was hosted by Terrance J and Brandee Evans. The event included performances by music artists such as 2 Chainz, India Arie, Leon Bridges and Lucy Daye. North Carolina native, Rapsody, performed in NCCU’s football stadium alongside members of the Sound Machine’s drumline.
Faith Nelson, a member of NCCU’S Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated, and Tymia Atkinson, a member of NCCU’s Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated also represented the university in the Greek Unity Step Show.
The energizing atmosphere of homecoming is something that cannot be replicated virtually.
While homecoming is a time for reflection and remembrance, it also gives students the opportunity to create even more memories of their time here at NCCU. And with COVID-19, that wasn’t entirely possible.