Homecoming won't be the same as an alumni, but the love is still there (Victor Harper)

Homecoming is a grand celebration at universities across the nation. The name alone gives everyone a rush as they return to their roots to show their love for their alma mater. This is an extremely spectacular event if you attend a HBCU. Family, friends, and proud alumni travel far and wide to attend the highly anticipated homecoming activities that prestigious institutions of higher learning focused primarily on African American students host. With events such as coronations of the University King and Queen, stepshows, on campus parties for students, and alumni gatherings at hotels, there is quite a bit of excitement on the yard during homecoming week. Alumni showed up and showed out, making it known that they are indeed “STEEL IN LOVE WITH VUU.”

This year on the hallowed grounds of Virginia Union University proved to be no different. On Monday, October 3rd, there was a kickoff that consisted of a cookout on the yard (which was moved inside the student center due to inclement weather) and a pep rally. There was a DJ spinning tunes, having everyone in the groove to a mixture of current and classic hits. Our SGA was selling “Panther Packages” for the homecoming events.

Mr. and Miss Virginia Union University gave a message to the student body to get us pepped up for what the week was going to bring. The Rah-Rah’s (our cheerleaders) performed a few cheers, and head coach Michael Bailey and the football team were in attendance as well. Coach Bailey and starting quarterback and team captain Cheston Hickman gave some encouraging words that surely boosted everyone’s school spirit and Panther Pride.

Tuesday night was the fashion show, “Til Death Do Us Part” which featured our own modeling troupe, AckroVinci. The fashion featured in the show was made by members of the troupe and local designer of upcoming clothing brand Hollywood cemetery based in Richmond, Britt Sebastian. The fashion show was definitely a crowd pleaser, of course this is no surprise because this is what AckroVinci dedicates themselves to practices that last several hours to perfect their moves. As a team, the troupe choreographed the show themselves and I am extremely proud of my peers.

Wednesday was the VUU Music Video Awards Impersonation Show, and what an awards show it was! We had guests perform such as TLC, Missy Elliott, Beyonce, MMG recording artists Rick Ross, Meek Millz and Wale, and the late Ray Charles and Notorious BIG.

Thursday was an eventful day for me. As a member of the Virginia Union University Royal Court serving as Miss Senior 2011-2012, I had to prepare for the night’s coronation activity -after ­class of course! After class, I headed to the mall to meet my fellow class queens and our University queen to get my makeup done. I was extremely excited for the night’s festivities. Later that evening, we met early so we could get dressed and primped for the evening. The coronation was beautiful, as King Trent T. Miller and Queen Rachetta (Shay) Moss waltzed in to a jazz beat played by a live band as one of the music professors serenaded us with her opera style vocals.

After President Claude G. Perkins and First Lady Sheryl Perkins crowned the King and Queen and the closing remarks were said, the Royal Court and the immediate past King and Queen lead the processional to the Royal Reception. It was a classy event in which the Court got the chance to fellowship with family, friends, faculty, and staff. A live band was also there providing a wonderful ambiance as enjoyed dinner and played upbeat tunes to shake a tailfeather and simultaneously enjoy a slight workout.

Friday morning was convocation –the first event the graduating seniors got a chance to wear our caps and gowns and were recognized by in front of the University, family, friends, and guests. The keynote speaker was Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, VUU Class of 1979 and currently the chairman on the board of trustees. He delivered a powerful message on staying strong in faith as well as using the power of your will to get up and serve your purpose. That evening was the long awaited and highly anticipated Greek Stepshow. This is an event that I find hard to sum up the greatness of because it completely took my breath away.

I would have to say my favorite part of the night was watching my King and Queen step for their respective organizations, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. (Gamma Chapter) and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (Beta Epsilon Chapter). I had lost my voice cheering them on as well as my other friends who performed that night. I beamed with pride knowing the hard work and dedication they put into their shows, especially with both of their organizations winning first place that night. Special props to Queen Shay for going through coronation and the stepshow with a minor ankle sprain! After the stepshow, there was a “gymjam” featuring music by Richmond’ own DJ Rayvon. I must say, I enjoyed myself to the fullest despite the bittersweet reality of this being the final homecoming gym jam I would be attending.

Saturday morning, I rose bright and early after only a few short hours of sleep, hearing my best friend’s voice saying “you don’t sleep during homecoming!” That motivated me to get out of my bed and go over my checklist because as the old adage says, the show must go on! I got dressed and ready for the parade. I had no jitters until the moment my King helped me into our corvette so I could sit on the “t”. He held my hand silently in support as we waited for our cue that the parade was about to begin. It was a great experience to see family and friends as the parade processed on. My heart was also warmed by countless strangers cheering me on as well! We were local celebrities! A baby even blew me a kiss! That was one of the most memorable moments of the parade for me.

This year, nationally renowned gospel recording artists Trin-I-Tee 5:7 served as the parade grand marshal. They also sung the National Anthem live before our football game began. After halftime, we were allowed to venture off with our families. After countless photo opportunities, I led my family across the street to experience tailgating -VUU style! There were tents everywhere, many had DJs ­-one even shouted me out because I was still donned in my dress birdcage and sash. There were merchants selling food, jewelry, clothing, Greek paraphernalia, and many other trinkets. Greeks were at their tents doing their thing and fellowshipping with brothers and sisters both young and old, yet with the same undying love for their organizations.

Sadly, my team was defeated by Elizabeth City State University 43-41 in TRIPLE overtime –yes, you read correctly TRIPLE! I still admire my peers for staying strong and playing until there were triple zeros on the scoreboard. PANTHER PRIDE (RAWR)!!!

Ending the week was the Gospel Experience titled “Still in Love with JESUS!” This was an exceptional way to end the week’s festivities—with praise! This is another event I find difficult to put into words. You truly had to be there to understand that as a Baptist university, Virginia Union always has an activity that ties into our Christian roots. The Holy Spirit was moving in the Allix Bledsoe James Chapel, also known as Coburn Hall, and all of the acts were wonderful.

We had several guests to bless our presence with their talents including Sisterly Grace Praise Dancers, Ty Francis, Pamela Johnson -a Virginia Union Alum, and the Black Awakening Choir from our neighboring university, Virginia Commonwealth. Of course the Virginia Union University Gospel Choir tore the house down with a grand finale.

Although this is the closing of one chapter of my journey, I am positive that I will enjoy my first homecoming as alumni next year. Hopefully by then I will meet my goal and have the coveted title of Young Alumnus of the Year. My HBCU has definitely helped me grow and mold me into the woman I know I was destined to be. The great tradition of homecoming that occurs on the campuses at these exceptional institutions that we call HBCU’s shall live on forever.

Nadejah Whitted

HBCU Buzz Staff