Hampton Homecoming, 2011…Let’s Not Forget

It’s been a week since Homecoming 2011 has come and gone, and in this week I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my 10 year reunion.  The faces that I saw on the yard, the people that I haven’t seen – some of them since graduation – all made me think one thing:  let’s make sure that it doesn’t take another 10 years to see each other again.

I was blown away by the people who came back and even more shocked as some of my friends would see faces and say things like “I was just talking to <insert name> and they haven’t been back to Homecoming since we graduated.” 

It was a bittersweet Homecoming for me as I got the distinct impression that many of the people who made their 10 year debut would not be seen again until the 15 or 20 year reunion.  I also got the impression that many of the Homecoming regulars were taking a good look at campus as if to say that after this Homecoming their visits would be few and far between.

Homecoming will certainly be different from now on.  As younger classes come back for their reunions and older classes stop coming, we will recognize fewer faces, but this is not a reason to stop making the trip.

Coming back to “the yard” to see each other and understand from whence we came is an important tradition that we should keep near to us.  It’s an important tradition that we should pass on to our kids (that’s a collective our as I have no children, but I digress).  Homecoming isn’t about simply re-capturing an amazing time in our lives, it’s also about celebrating the present time….enjoying campus, watching the new traditions of the current student body, and seeing the new developments on campus.  KUDOS to Dr. Harvey for the Union Jam that was “off the chain” – slammin DJ, and excellent cash bar.  That was a great call.  

Homecoming is about revisiting the past and standing firm in the present.

Granted, I understand that many alumni who don’t live on the east coast might have a hard time justifying the expense of traveling to Homecoming.  However, if you live close enough and you can make it, you should return to your “Home By The Sea” for more than just the major milestone reunions.

My parents graduated from Hampton in 1973 and one of the things that they gave me was the gift of a rich tradition – how did they do it?  They never shoved the idea of an HBCU down my throat – they showed me the power of what an HBCU could give me.  Each year, we’d pack up the car and ride to Homecoming .  I would watch as they laughed and caught up with old friends at different tailgates…they’d even wake me up to go to the Saturday morning parade (that I haven’t been to since, by the way).  Hampton is a part of them…it is a place that shaped who they are.  It wasn’t a second choice – which is the way that many misinformed people would like to cast the HBCU – it was THE choice. 

Hampton was our choice.  Let’s never forget that. 

Our Hampton experience has forever shaped us…it has given us a strong foundation and it has enabled us to go into the world and represent a rich legacy.  Let’s make sure that we do that, let’s make sure that we come back as often as we can.

I’ll end with one of my favorite poems, seen through the lens of Homecoming – author unknown.

I am the black child

All the world waits my coming

All the world watches with interest to see

What I shall become

Civilization hangs in the balance for what I am

The world of tomorrow will be…

I am the black child

You have brought me into this world about which I know nothing
You hold in your hands my destiny

You determine whether I shall succeed or fail

Give me, I beg you
A world where I can walk tall and proud

 Train me, as is your duty unto me
To love myself, my people

and to build and maintain a black nation*

*P.S. – I must add that I love our diverse nation and that I have no hidden agenda in nation building!  This is simply a poem that I am fond of.  I remember liking this poem as a child, and I feel that it is relevant to our HBCU experience.  Our culture needs traditions that affirm positive notions of who we are and what we will become – the tradition of the HBCU is one of them.