SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch         Fall 2015       Personal Memory Ethnographies

        Sabrina Ross

Homecoming: An Eye Opening Weekend at a Historically Black College

Growing up going to all predominantly white schools in Phoenix, I never really was shown that minorities, especially blacks, graduated and attended college. Yes, I heard from my father and certain family members about their college experiences and about Historically Black Colleges and Universities, but I was never taught that in school.

Lincoln ULast year I was invited to go visit my older brother at his school, Lincoln University in Missouri for their homecoming weekend. I was so excited to experience homecoming with him because I had not had the opportunity to do so at ASU.  My cousin Erica came with me so that she could also culture of a Historically Black College. But I could tell that she did not feel as passionate as I did about the trip.

While on the plane with my cousin, I kept telling Sabrina " I don't understand why you are so excited about going. We are just going to visit another school just like ours. The only difference is that it's a HBCU. That's it." I had never really had the experience of being the minority. My mother is white and my dad is white and black, so I always had the physical appearance of being white and definitely didn't socialize with a lot of blacks or Hispanics. Like Sabrina I also went to predominantly white schools but I could “pass” for the majority. So I never had that feeling of being different than everyone else like my cousin, because she is black.

When we finally got to Lincoln's campus, the entire vibe was just so comforting and vibrant! To witness seeing a sea of young back women and men on Lincoln's campus was a breath of fresh air for me. I was able to look around and see and socialize with people I can identify myself with. I was in the same state, just an hour away from where Michael Brown got gunned down by a white police officer only a month before. I could see the effect it took on the city, the community, and especially the black campuses. The unity among the black community lit a fire underneath everyone to be aware of and address the issue of racism by law enforcement. So during every event during homecoming weekend; students, faculty, and the community made sure to honor Michael Brown and his family. It was great to see the black community take seriously the issue of racism in our everyday lives.

Once we arrived at Lincoln University and toured the campus with my cousins, I turned to Sabrina and said "I feel like the black sheep." I guess this is what Sabrina meant when she said this is how she felt most of her life in school.

Not only did homecoming bring awareness to the Michael Brown incident, the Lincoln University community made sure to pay homage to those who made the way for us to have another outlet in expressing ourselves creatively. The Open Mic Night was such an uplifting night. It was important to have the open mic night because it was a traditional event. It was so refreshing to hear the pure instruments; drums, piano, the flute, etc. with the singing during the open mic night. Those instruments did justice to the individuals reciting their own poems and even to those who were reciting work by black influential poets like Maya Angelou. Especially because of her recent passing in May 2014, they paid homage to her work. Besides Maya Angelou, they also paid homage to Langston Hughes, Nicki Giovanni, Toni Morrison, Tupac, and more.

bandAs for fraternity and sorority barbecue and show, those events embodied the black culture! To others it seems like it is just entertainment, singing, dancing, etc. But that is our culture! Those are our outlets. Fraternities and sororities were founded to create brother and sisterhood to help one another overcome and elevate our people through the trials and tribulations at that time. It is not just a group of black individuals stepping and dancing. I had one of the best times seeing brother and sisterhood bring all of the black organizations together and celebrate the school, education, and each other. They put on an awesome step show with traditional and new routines. I had always been around that environment outside of school because my father, uncles, and my brother are members of a fraternity. So it brought back so many memories! And let's not forget all that great food and music! 

Even when we went to the open mic night, fraternity and sorority show, and barbecue I could not grasp why they come together and "step", chant, sing, recite poetry, etc. I thought it was for pure entertainment like usual.  When Sabrina and her brother tried to explain to me that these events celebrated their culture and education, I could not help but laugh and say " So you mean to tell me all this is culture? All on one campus? For blacks? It's cool to have this here, but I don't understand why both of you and the rest of the campus are so passionate about it all. It's just like ASU's homecoming, just not with all the culture or black activities."

We both looked at Erica with astonishment. I replied with a tone of disappointment, “That's definitely a negative, ASU is not even close. And we are passionate about being black educated students!" My brother and I just walked away. At that moment I knew Erica wouldn't get it or even really want to know what this experience meant to my brother and I.

It was such a fresh breath of air to experience young black people like myself, come together and celebrate education, culture, and one another without being stereotyped or feeling like the minority. That was something I could not experience back on my campus. And with that heartfelt experience, it will forever be an eye opener and reminder of where I come from and how there are other black students like myself whom I can identify with. For me this was truly a homecoming in more ways than one.

Return to Personal Memory Ethnographies homepage