Proud and productive, I’m a child of an HBCU – a 2006 graduate from Morgan State University, but you won’t catch me in any letter jackets or riding with personalized school license plates—I’m much too discreet for that. However, whenever prompted to state my affiliation, I reel off my origin with no hesitation. My graduate friends from bigger schools (i.e. the University of Maryland-College Park, Penn State and UCLA) never seem to understand my loyalty to the HBCU circle.

Case in point: One of my Maryland peers asked me last Wednesday what I had planned for the weekend. So when I responded with “I’m going to the New York Urban League Classic for the Howard vs. Morgan State game,” they laughingly replied “why?” Maryland had just tore open Morgan, 62-3, the week prior so my College Park crony automatically assumed I’d be better served reporting on a Pop Warner game (his words, not mine). I should’ve kept the secret to myself and members of my HBCU circle but I’m a generous guy so I let him in on it when I told him: “Football games at Black schools are more than just the game, FYI.”

I offered an invite for him to meet me at the New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday to find out for himself and he accepted. Upon our arrival to the afternoon game, “Mr. Division I Program” was all wide-eyed and open-eared; he had never seen anything like this. He had seen Black people before (he’s Black), he had seen tailgating before (he’s a Terrapin) and he had seen partying before (he’s from D.C.), but not quite like this. The atmosphere that flooded the Meadowlands Sports Complex parking lot was a wakeup call for the Urban League Classic newbie. Fish fries, card games and blaring music; he couldn’t even walk through the parking lot without avoiding the temptation to join in something.

It was a scene from one of those stereotypical Black college movies that always pinpoint things down to a tee. A regular Black family reunion, New York style – barbecue and the Electric Slide all included. Not too many cared that Howard and Morgan were battling inside, they weren’t there for that. You had paid ticket holders who spent all of 15 minutes inside the stadium just to see the battle of the bands. As for the game? Well, what about it? Morgan won, 20-3, but the real game was outside and didn’t officially end until around 1:30 a.m. As for Mr. Public-Ivy School, I asked him if he had a chance to see any of the game. He laughed, shrugged and said “Man, I didn’t come here for the game.”

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO