Thousands of people from across the world came to the District of Columbia to participate in Howard University’s recent homecoming events. But, many were surprised when key activities were left off the schedule.
During the week of Oct. 18-22, Howard celebrated its homecoming week, with the name “Blueprint,” which, according to the university’s website, stood for recognizing the past, celebrating the present and embracing the future. Homecoming events took place on the main quadrangle known as “The Yard,” the Burr Gymnasium, and throughout the university. But, some signature events such as the parade and the gospel concert didn’t take place this year, and some alumni weren’t happy about it.
Howard University homecoming is one of the District’s most popular events. (Courtesy Photo)
“I miss the parade and I am disappointed that it was cancelled,” Ryscha Williams told the AFRO. “I miss the gospel concert too. There were also too many people in line at the events and you had to do too much walking to go to things.”
Kevin Jenkins, a graduate of Howard, agreed with Williams. “I was disappointed that there was no parade,” Jenkins told the AFRO on Oct. 22. “After getting my haircut, I stepped on Georgia Avenue and said to myself, ‘Where is the judges’ stand?’”
The reason for the missing events had more to do with the budget than with a lack of interest. “The budget was reduced dramatically, by 20 percent,” said Victor Montgomery, director of special events and development and alumni relations told AFRO. “In years past, we’ve gone over for events that cost a lot, like the Gospel show and the parade, but receive little or no return. This put us in a hole fiscally. This year, the goal was ‘less-is-more.’ We put our focus in making fewer events more memorable for all.”
Howard University has celebrated its homecoming since 1924 and it is considered one of the leading annual entertainment activities occurring in the District. As many as 100,000 people participate in homecoming activities that include a football game with a battle between Howard’s band and the visiting band, Yardfest, and a concert event that takes place on the The Yard the Friday before the Saturday football game that features well-known artists and bands.
This year, rapper-entertainer Common, vocalist Faith Evans and the band Ayyy-tone entertained thousands of people at the International Yardfest. The Yardfest also had vendors in white tents selling food, university and Greek-letter paraphernalia, and organizations such as the Peace Corps and the D.C. Army National Guard.
“Yardfest speaks to the fellowship, community and Howard. Issues with the crowd caused us to cancel it in other years, but the alumni reached out and expressed how much of a signature the event is to Howard,” Montgomery said.
The step show, featuring Greek-letter organizations, took place on Oct. 20 and was sold-out. “I am glad to see the step show back on campus,” Williams said. The step show features Greek fraternities and sororities stepping in cadence with dance routines.
Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said that “homecoming is a unique experience.”
“It not only provides an opportunity for Howard University students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to engage with one another but it also reminds us why the Howard University experience is essential to the genetic makeup of the Diaspora and the world,” Frederick said.
Katherine Powell, a spokesperson for the homecoming committee, told The Hilltop Howard’s student-run newspaper, that changes were made to make homecoming more focused on its popular events.
“We wanted to bring everything back to those core events, the very traditional Yardfest and step show, everything that is most exciting,” Powell said. “Obviously the parade, R&B show, and the gospel show were events that the community loved, however we wanted to make sure that we allocated all of our efforts and funds to do a very strong Yardfest and step show.”
There were other events such as a “Committed to Breath” town hall meeting, an LGBTA Reception, and a Tailgate that ultimately had thousands of people at the school’s parking lot across from the university’s bookstore.
Inga Willis told the AFRO she was going to enjoy homecoming, parade or not. “I am happy to come to homecoming,” Willis said. “I think the homecoming committee and the administration did what was feasible. There should always be a flexible schedule in regards to those things.
Not having the parade didn’t stop me from having a good time.”
William Anderson, a junior at Howard, looked at homecoming differently. “It is great to see people come together and have a good time,” Anderson told the AFRO. “In terms of the parade, I have always learned that there will always be glitches. The main purpose of homecoming is for people in the Howard family to come together and have a good time.”
Alexa Lisitza contributed to this article.