The spread of COVID-19 has impacted many traditions including university events like homecomings. For many historically Black colleges and universities, homecomings have become deeply entwined with the institution’s legacy and have become cultural events for the Black community. Due to social distancing restrictions, many university campuses are giving students the option of remote learning to limit the number of people on campus to contain the virus from spreading.
To keep the tradition alive in light of the viral outbreak, numerous HBCU institutions have opted to take the celebration online, creating virtual events for students to attend. For schools like Howard University, they have decided to entwine the events with what’s happening in the news with an “Advocacy” theme in addition to panel discussions and virtual performances. For many students, virtual events will be just one way to keep the tradition going for now.
“I predict virtual HBCU homecomings will be here to stay. They’ll become meshed into our post-COVID world,“ said Luke Lawal, founder of HBCU Buzz. “Don’t get me wrong, next year students and alumni are going to flood the yard, BUT virtual programming may present unique opportunities in the future.”
Outside of traditional campuses, other corporations are looking to host their own virtual HBCU events. YouTube will be holding the Meet Me On The Yard event hosted by La La Anthony and 2 Chainz with a celebrity lineup set to appear including Busta Rhymes, Ari Lennox, Amanda Seales, and Lance Gross on Oct. 24 at 8 pm ET.
Essence is also teaming up with PepsiCo on a virtual HBCU homecoming this weekend called “She Got Now.” The two-day event will be hosted by Terrence J and features appearances by HBCU alum, past halftime band and step performances, and an old-school party with Doug E. Fresh.
Critically, it will also include social initiatives and a “recommitment to growing the She Got Now Allen McKellar Jr. Internship Program into a full blown recruiting pipeline, to get the best and brightest minds of young HBCU women around the country opportunities within PepsiCo.”
“To be able to provide this experience to the HBCU community, and simultaneously extend our work to provide opportunities to HBCU graduates at PBNA with the expansion of our Allen McKellar Jr. Internship Program, is incredibly special,” said Hampton alum Derek Lewis, the president of the South Division for PepsiCo Beverages North America, in a press release. “And we can’t wait to kick it off on October 24.”
Urban One is celebrating homecoming for an entire season, with One Yard, a virtual HBCU experience that includes live performances, a cookout, a step show, a Battle of the Beats, a Sunday brunch, and more.
“I think it’s a much-needed event that will be fun and enlightening,” said actress Keshia Knight Pulliam, One Yard’s grand marshal, in a press release. “Being young, gifted, and Black should be celebrated, and One Yard will give our community a place to unite and celebrate ourselves.”