Homecoming celebrations at colleges and universities across America are back in full swing after a brief hiatus due to COVID-19. When many school systems went online, the “normal” events students had were not taken for granted. Instead, some were put on Zoom or taken out altogether.
COVID numbers are down and schools have gone back to pre-pandemic festivities like football games, dances and tailgating.
Howard University senior Jordyn Allen is excited for the activities this year.
“Homecoming at Howard University is truly a magical and engaging experience,” said the Fort Lauderdale native.
There is an annual Yardfest, which is unlike any other HBCU concert. Traditions include the State of the University address, the Annual Step Show, and the Day of Service. She said the changes during COVID-19 were the amount of people who could occupy the space. Howard’s homecoming is inclusive, and she mentioned the Lavender Reception where LGBTQ+ students are recognized.
“You always have to be on your feet,” Allen added, as the lineup for homecoming is not announced. When she heard that Kanye West was on campus, she and her peers fled to the lawn.
Tennessee State University student Kenneth Rolle II said homecomings at the HBCU went from virtual to hybrid to in-person. He hopes that this year is similar to 2019; the traditions include an Annual Gala and Fish Fry, as well as a Step Show.
“Homecoming is a family reunion for the masses. TSU is a special place for homecoming because individuals look to remember the rich history of the university and understand how far we have come,” said the Orlando native.
While Allen and Rolle know about homecomings pre-COVID, some college students will be experiencing the activities for the first time. Nineteen-year-old Deborah Effon attends the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and has only attended homecoming after COVID. During homecoming week, the programming and tailgating was not advertised and she was not interested in the activities.
The college’s traditions are a football game and selecting a Niner 9, which is Homecoming Court.
“Talking with students who have attended the university longer than I, homecoming is fun for a select group of people. Attending a predominantly white institution, our homecoming culture doesn’t entice everyone,” said Effon.
And others like Texas native Kevin Huang had gotten used to smaller or nonexistent homecoming activities. Huang went to a high school that had a homecoming parade, kings and queens, big parties, and football games. However, in his senior year the COVID protocol was in place and that changed all activities.
“By the time school started again, in my area of America we were back in class and masked,” Huang said.
When he graduated he wasn’t expecting much from college celebrations. As a result, he did not know that McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas had a homecoming until recently.
Post-COVID events have been “a lot smaller [than events before the pandemic,]” he said.
Homecoming has also changed for high school students.
Fifteen-year-old Elsa Ankri will attend her second homecoming at Beverly Hills High School in southern California and she’s been helping organize spirit week.
“This year, we have shades day, tie-dye day, decade day, and more. We also have a party on Saturday that is disco themed,” said Ankri.
Last year’s homecoming was Las Vegas-themed and was held on the tennis courts instead of inside because of COVID.