The annual HBCU Alumni Alliance Run/Walk in Atlanta is more than just a fundraiser.

Over the course of 12 years this event has raised $1.5 million for metro Atlanta students who plan to attend one of dozens of participating historically black colleges and universities. But this 5K, held Saturday at Piedmont Park, also serves as a homecoming of sorts for Atlanta area graduates of HBCUs and in the process highlights the unique role these schoolshave in African American culture.

Jazz Bean spent a year at a predominantly white institution before transferring to and graduating from Albany State University. It was her first time attending the HBCU Run/Walk, but she said she won’t miss it again after experiencing the camaraderie and school spirit.

“This reminds me of why I went to an HBCU,” she said. “Because it’s a community. It doesn’t matter where I went. If I go to the (Florida A&M University) table, if I got to the South Carolina State (University) table, they’re going to show me love. It’s a culture.”

Minutes earlier, she and other ASU alumni had performed a school cheer starting with the year the university was established: “1-9-1-9-0-3. E’erbody get up! Get crunk! And do the Ram Buck!”

The road race is the main event, with close to 4,000 people signed up for the 5K course this year. After they crossed the finish line, participants retreated to the tents representing dozens of schools where alumni in paraphernalia shared snacks and memories.

The Atlanta HBCU Alumni Alliance formed in 2004 as an umbrella organization for local alumni chapters of eight schools. The Run/Walk launched as the group’s major fundraiser in 2008. This year, students who attend over 50 HBCUs will benefit from the proceeds.

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