When my friend and co-worker asked me to accompany her to Howard University’s Homecoming weekend, I thought “why not?” After all, this was my dream school back in high school. I’d spent countless hours scouring the school’s website, looking at the dormitories and brainstorming what organizations to join. I finally applied and was awarded multiple scholarships long before graduating the 12th grade. Little did I know, my fantasies would never become a reality as my mother decided that Washington, D.C. was no place for a 17-year old New Jerseyian who’s never lived away from home. So, buried alongside my high school memories were pent up feelings about not becoming a Bison. Worry not, I follow the “everything happens for a reason” mantra and couldn’t imagine not attending my own school.
Fast forward to present day as I start packing my weekend bag just an hour and a half before my bus departs Midtown Manhattan (I live in Brooklyn). Up until this moment, I’d been told that this famed celebration was a fashion show of sorts as guys and gals pulled out their best threads to model on the yard and at countless parties. You can imagine the anxiety I felt while struggling to find clothes worthy enough in my closet—I’m no fashionista. Ironically, I would end up wearing my girlfriends’ clothes all weekend as we mixed and matched ensembles inside our rented apartment not far from the school. Even the bus ride down to our country’s capitol played out the same. It may have been 12:30am, but girls were fully dressed as if a party awaited them at Union Station. As I waited in line, old friends were reunited and new ones were made as we all talked about the anticipated happenings. At this point, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew it would be something to remember.
Photo Credit: Stacy-Ann Ellis
Once I arrived at our rented underground spot, my girlfriends were laid out across the apartment, presumably after some raucous partying (and an accurate preview of what was to come). The next morning, I was bombarded with stories of the night fueled by liquor, loud music and lots of eye candy. At this point, I was more than ready for Yardfest, an annual outside concert thrown by the university and featuring today’s hottest artists. Last year, Drake practically ignited a riot after crashing 2 Chainz set. I could only hope that someone or something would upstage him in 2013. Unfortunately, that was the “epic fail” of the weekend that even interviewing celebrities backstage couldn’t save. Big Sean and 2 Chainz are amazing performers, but the yawns were frequent since I’ve seen them multiple times. Poor Gyptian’s mic was entirely too low (even from the front row) and Young Dro’s outfit distracted from his lively set. The worst part? Just as a “surprise guest” was set to hit the stage, a gang of guards and law enforcement flooded the stage and shut down an already lackluster event. Combined with the fact that my feet were frozen, I was not looking forward to the trek down Georgia Ave or the rest of the day.
Luckily, the 1,000 Bottles (hosted by the Gifted Life and BE, LLC) celebration saved the night. As promised, it certainly felt like I drank a 1,00o bottles as liquor was in infinite supply and every song was twerk-worthy. I dared to wear a backless dress and felt amazing surrounded by what I could only describe as black excellence: tall, dark and handsome men in suits and women dressed for the college equivalent of prom; a mix of nostalgia and glamour. Needless to say, words can’t express how much fun I had or the hangover I experienced the next day.
Photo Credit: Instagram
Like a champ, I managed to cram some work in before heading to our next outing: the tailgate. This is when I finally felt the camaraderie so many Howard alum speak of. Even as an outsider, I felt a part of something bigger than me as people ran from spot to spot tackling friends they hadn’t seen since last year’s festivities. After making new acquaintances, I ended up seeing an old childhood friend hundreds of miles from where we last saw each other. Turns out it was a homecoming event, even for a newbie like me.
Before I could catch my breath for the first time all weekend, we were packed in a car and on our way to Hennypalooza. In case the name doesn’t give it away, this was yet another opportunity to drink liquor like water and give my best video vixen impression. Unfortunately, we never made it, but a quick detour landed us at the “Howard House Party.” While I thought the space was a bit cramped, I managed to have a good time…and I was sober! People were crammed and the ground shook (literally); making for an “epic” scene.
As I catch up on sleep and reflect, I can say that the trip was worth while. I may not be an alum, but that didn’t keep me from having an amazing time. At the end of the day, it’s the camaraderie and dare I say—family like atmosphere (spiked with Ciroc)—that attracts not just its students, but celebrities and outsiders. Sure it’s epic, but was it also an epic fail? All in all, I don’t think so.