Emma Ladson traveled 900 miles from Miami to D.C. to enjoy a weekend at her alma mater. She brought her 9-year-old daughter and a friend with her.
“He wants to come to homecoming and I told him you don’t bring sand to the beach. You don’t bring a guy, there’ll be so many guy,” Ladson joked about her male friend who accompanied her on the trip.
For alumni, the annual celebration that is Howard University homecoming is a time to return to their alma mater and to a familiar place. In 2010, graduates came back 5, 10, 20, 25 years later to a place they consider home.
Ladson graduated from Howard University in 1985 as a broadcast journalism major and Spanish minor. 25 years later, she’s trying to introduce her daughter to the Howard legacy.
“We’re trying to indoctrinate her early for Howard University. This is her second alumni reunion, she came to my 20th and now she’s at my 25th,” said Ladson.
Ladson travels for the homecoming festivities almost every year. She was here last year and reconnected with her college roommate, whom she hadn’t seen in over 20 years.
This year, Ladson said she mainly came to show her friend Abdu and her daughter the love and unity that exists at Howard homecoming.
“She was last here when she was about 4 and now she’s 9 so she’s gonna come with me on almost every possible occasion. We’re getting her ready,” said Ladson.
As she stood on the steps leading up to the second floor inside the Armour J. Blackburn center, Ladson looked forward to attending yardfest. The next day, she planned to enjoy the parade and go out on the town in the evening. Ladson said she will try to come back again next year.
Alissa King – Washington
Since graduating from Howard in December 2005, this is Alissa King’s first time at homecoming as an alumnae.
When she was an undergraduate biology student, King said the annual homecoming celebrations were a big deal for her. But since finishing school, she hadn’t really had a chance to attend. He friends had small kids and weren’t able to make it. But now that those kids are a bit older, the graduates finally decided to get together again.
“Mainly because a lot of my old friends from Howard were coming back this year. It’s 5 years so everybody wants to come back,” said King.
She stood outside of Alaine Locke Hall, while the yardfest music and crowd flourished behind her. On her agenda for the weekend was yardfest, the football game on Saturday, and back to the yard after the game. Although she didn’t have a much-coveted ticket for the game, all sold out at the time, her friend had held a ticket for her.
“It’s great. It’s amazing how much things have changed as far as how people dress and just a whole different atmosphere.”
Originally from Georgia, King decided to live and work in D.C. after graduation. She was spared from having to make expensive travel plans to enjoy the weekend festivities.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing old faces. I just love to see everyone come back together and I just love to see people happy to see everyone. It just seems like we’re back home.”
Walter McGill – Nashville, Tenn.
Walter McGill’s Howard University career wasn’t a typical one. Nonetheless, he faithfully comes back to his alma mater as often as he can.
“I might miss one or two here or there but for the most part, I’m here most years,” he said.”
McGill attended the school for a year as a freshman, and then transferred out to Tennessee State University. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, he wanted an extra dose of Howard and returned to pursue political science studies in the graduate school of arts and sciences. He graduated in 1987.
Looking out at the activities on the yard, McGill proudly sported his purple and gold Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. jacket.
“When I was here, unfortunately the brothers weren’t out on the yard,” said McGill, who pledged while at Tennessee State.
Besides spending time with old classmates and friends, what he enjoys most about coming back is seeing the new energy of the current young students.
“They’re growing, you know, still going. Sometimes I come and I feel the political energy, which I really like,” said McGill. “And then sometimes it’s a cultural energy, which I like that also.”
He was especially pleased to run into an alumnus ten years McGill’s senior who comes back to Howard every year. “It’s a positive thing,” he said.
In the 23 years since he graduated, McGill has noticed changes at the university. Back then, he said there was no yardfest. The free outdoor concert event has grown much bigger over the years, he said.
“I love to see that not only the Howard community but the young people from all over the country come that have just heard about Howard University and even if they’re just coming for the party, I hope that they get some of the power that’s here as well,” said McGill.
For the weekend, he planned to check out the football game on the big screens positioned all over the yard every year. Some of his fraternity brothers were having reunions and he planned to attend those. To close out the weekend, McGill looked forward to attending chapel service on Sunday morning.