Ten years ago, The Wire’s third season opened with the destruction of the Franklin Terrace Towers, a collection of high-rise buildings that served as a central location for the Barksdale Organization’s drug operation. Their demolition signaled aggressive change for those immediately affected, but also for the show as a whole. At Howard University’s Homecoming celebration last year, when the Fire Marshall shut down Yardfest—a traditionally free event known for live performances by music superstars and its sentimental reunion element—I identified with the feeling of watching those towers fall. As an HU alum, a huge part of my formative years had imploded right before my eyes.
Season three of The Wire served as a transitional period for the show, providing monumental changes to the acclaimed drama’s narrative. As Howard University’s Homecoming enters its 90th year, Yardfest as it has previously existed is no more. For this reason, I lament the death of a tradition and feel for current and future Howard students whose Yardfest memories may never be quite the same.
The mythical status attached to Howard University’s homecoming celebration has snowballed over the years, as its history draws thousands of alumni and an assortment of unaffiliated people familiar with the legend to D.C. each October. Though there’s a week’s worth of festivities, Yardfest—which takes place on the Friday of homecoming week—had always been its gem.
Through the years, it’s gained notoriety for drawing the biggest names in hip-hop. There’s famous footage of the Notorious B.I.G. performing in 1995. Jay-Z and DMX have appeared in the past, as did an on-the-cusp Kanye West in 2003, when he was less of a commodity than that year’s marquee attractions Juelz Santana, Young Gunz and Nelly. Recent years have seen Young Jeezy give his second performance since 2005, as well as sets from Rick Ross, 2 Chainz, Pusha T, Big Sean, Meek Mill, T.I. and a surprise appearance from Drake.
This year’s version of Yardfest, however, will be vastly different, as the live performers will be replaced by the DJ sets featuring Biz Markie, DJ Drama, and DJ Quicksilva. The vendors will remain and there still be music in some capacity, but its pulse has been eviscerated. This radical move was motivated by 2013’s aforementioned clusterfuck.
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