Howard University freshman Madison Star has never experienced “Yardfest” before, like so many students who have walked the campus before her. But she knows she’s in for a treat the HBCU Mecca has been denied for three years.
“I’m excited to see what the environment is like to see all of Howard come together between students, alumni, and family members,” said Star. “Everyone is here to have a good time and it’s nothing but positive energy, it’s the best when it is like that.”
Star is one of thousands of students, faculty and alumni who will experience the famous concert as part of Howard’s much-anticipated homecoming celebration. “Being that we haven’t had Yardfest since my freshman year I’m ecstatic that we are going get to end our experience senior year how we started it,” said senior Halle Stanley.
Along with Yardfest, which returns for the first time since 2013 and features rappers Common, Fabolous and R&B singer Faith Evans as headline acts, according to campus newspaper The Hilltop, homecoming will pack a weekend of festivities including a Greek step-show, a huge homecoming tailgating party, a fashion show, the Presidential Party, and the game between the Bisons and the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Saturday.
This homecoming marks the 93rd year for the storied university in Washington D.C. to celebrate its traditions and heritage. The 2016 theme is “BLUEPRINT,” which organizers say honors history, but also looks ahead.
“Our initial vision for this year is that we wanted to bring everything back to the yard and bring everyone back as one,” said Erika Norell, HU homecoming chair. “To recognize the past, but also cultivate a new environment for the future.
“We wanted to focus mainly on the Alumni, the people that Howard has produced are extremely commendable. Homecoming is not just just a big party on the yard, it’s a networking event.”
It’s not just Howard students, faculty and alumni that converge on the yard to celebrate homecoming. HBCUs attract visitors from around the world during their homecoming seasons to see the pageantry and soul that can only be witnessed at a Black college.
“Being a part of Blueprint, Howard University’s Homecoming is special to me as it allows me to further my vow of providing service to our student body, alumni and the public,” said Everette Hampton, Executive Assistant on HU’s homecoming committee I’m excited to give all these audiences a chance to celebrate our university wholeheartedly.”
It’s not only the students who are passionate about their homecoming. Faculty members are just as eager if not more, due to the many years of embracement of Black culture and the unity within the Howard community.
“The people who have attended this university is what makes homecoming legendary due to the fact that it produces greatness,” said Jennifer Thomas, an HU assistant journalism professor and former Miss Howard University. “Those legendary students who are now alumni, these great leaders and entrepreneurs that have been shaped by this university have an annual opportunity to come back together, to let our hair down and forget about the weight of the world around us and just be together as Bison.”
Howard alumnus Jordan Bailey echoed that sentiment.
“Our yard is special, our yard really makes a lot of what homecoming is…the celebrities and performers that come back; they know our reputation and they want to come back just to have a good time,” Bailey said.
However, although Yardfest has returned, other well-known festivities had to take a cut this year, leaving the Howard Parade, R&B show, and Gospel Show on the sidelines.
“We wanted to bring everything back to those core events, the very traditional Yardfest and stepshow, everything that is most exciting said Katherine Powell, a spokesperson for the homecoming committee. “Obviously the parade, R&B show, and Gospel show were events that the community loved, however we wanted to make sure we allocated all of our efforts and funds to do a very strong Yardfest and stepshow.”
In the past, more than 100,000 revelers have come to Howard’s homecoming, making it one of the premium African-American events of the year. Students on the committee aim to keep the tradition alive on their watch so they can pass it on to Star and other newcomers to the school. But right now, she’s just taking it in.
“We’re all black, we’re all family it’s going to feel so good to witness all of the love, excitement, and joy all around us,” she said.