Last weekend, EBONY was on the campus of Southwestern Christian College (SWCC) in Terrell, Texas, when the school was announced the grand prize winner of Ford’s Ultimate Homecoming Takeover. The takeover was just one more way Ford continues in its efforts to partner with local communities to go further. Last year it included a nationwide competition in which SWCC won. The campus of 125 students beat out historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation and received a $100,000 scholarship donation presented by the stars of the iconic television show A Different World, Jasmine Guy (Whitley), Kadeem Hardison (Dwayne), Cree Summer (Freddie) and Darryl Bell (Ron). Ford’s Ultimate Homecoming Takeover Experience served as an important forum to spotlight Ford’s commitment to higher education, the growth of African-American students and HBCUs. SWCC came alive as the electric sounds of the golden era of gospel, R&B and soul echoed from the speakers across the campus filled with children, current students and beloved alumni. The homecoming day party kicked off with Ford’s Multicultural Communications Manager Dee Guerrero, along with Different World cast members, presenting the scholarship to SWCC Chairman of the Board Dr. John Dansby. Attendees enjoyed test driving the F-150 XLT and Limited Ford models. In partnership with Drive 4 Ur Community, Ford donated $20 for each test drive or ride to the Tom Joyner Foundation to help support HBCUs. Shortly thereafter, the actors participated in a panel discussion about the importance of HBCUs and the role the show had on an entire generation.
As we listened to the cast, we also witnessed their vibrant smiles and frequent laughter. It was crystal clear they were more than simply colleagues; they were family. When asked about life after A Different World and if their roles potentially had held them back, Bell happily interjected, “As you can tell, whenever we get back together, this isn’t fate. You can’t make this up!” after mentioning he didn’t believe any of them felt their experiences with the show has been detrimental to them in any way. “It has and continues to be one of the greatest blessing in our lives,” Bell added. “Best time of all time,” Hardison whispered. The respect and honor they possess for their work in promoting the importance of HBCUs warmed the room as the actors passionately spoke about being approached over the years with gratitude from viewers on inspiring them to attend an HBCU.
“I loved the diversity of the cast. Usually, actors are the Black person on a show [as in there’s only one type of black person] and it’s very hard to represent everything about Black people in one person. We had different classes, different colorings, different backgrounds, different aspirations and that’s one thing I loved about A Different World. It showed the true spirit about what being Black is, and that it is diverse within itself,” Guy said in response when asked if they were aware of the impact the show had had on showcasing the spectrum of Blackness in America.
Bell followed with, “What was also great was that you saw different generations! From the youngsters [characters] like Bumper Robinson [and] Patrick Malone, all the way to [actors] Glynn Turman, [who played Col. Taylor] and Lou Myers, who played Mr. Gaines, there was always a different point of view. So no matter what topic was discussed, it wasn’t a monolithic response; it was something that was always challenging and relevant, it was important and we managed to be funny while we did it! That’s why I think it lasted so long and stayed evergreen.”
To see the full interview, watch above.