The Return: Howard Homecoming Is Back in Person for 2022

By Myia Borland

Howard University News Service

Students and alumni from near and far are gathering at the place where they each became part of the Bison herd for Howard University’s annual homecoming week.

Howard’s homecoming will be fully in person this year, meaning the return of traditional events, including the tailgate, fashion show and YardFest. This also means an increase in the money being pushed into the D.C. economy.

Due to the pandemic, the 2020 homecoming festivities were entirely virtual, and 2021 had limited in-person events restricted to current students. That means this year, thousands of alumni will be able to return home and join the festivities planned throughout the week.

Tara L. Gray graduated magna cum laude from the School of Communications in 1994 and earned her law degree in 1997 from Howard University School of Law. She is traveling to D.C. and anticipating a fun weekend reconnecting with her old peers.

She was able to recall her first homecoming in 1991 and shared what it was like to be immersed in a crowd of Black scholars who share great pride in their alma mater.

“My first homecoming as a student was fantastic, because I transferred to Howard from NYU and it was definitely a major positive cultural change,” Gray said. “It was exciting and the band was hyped. We had celebrities like Phylicia Rashad (now dean of the Chadwick Boseman College of Fine Arts), Puffy, Biggie and others in attendance or performing.”

For most alumni, the weekend will include travel expenses and tickets, which adds to the price of celebrating what many consider a sacred place and time.

“I have friends traveling to the area for homecoming and I live in the DMV now so, I will only need gas to travel in my car,” Gray shared. “I will probably spend money on a few events but nothing elaborate. Around $100 to $200.”

The magic of homecoming is that it can feel like it was yesterday. Stepping back onto campus allows alumni to remember some of their best memories of undergrad and even defining moments of adulthood.

“The entire city was filled with current Bison and alumni,” Gray recalled. “I hung out with friends and met a future boyfriend at my first homecoming! We had a ball and I am not sure if Howard even won the game or not, but it didn’t matter because I was now a part of an elite tribe of people.”

Gray is looking forward to a busy and expensive weekend.

“I expect it to be crowded and overpriced for the events, but The Yard should be fun!”

Kobe Kegler, a junior civil engineering major at Howard, expects this year’s events to make up for his first homecoming experience at the Mecca.

“My first homecoming wasn’t at all what I thought it would be,” Kegler said. “Howard homecoming, from what I’ve heard, is usually the hottest HBCU homecoming every year. To have half of our events canceled due to COVID and then celebrate through so many restrictions just made it a pretty underwhelming experience for me.”

The theme for this year is The Meccaverse. The name pays homage to the multiverse, and how the Howard community is one itself. Past themes include 2019: Forward, 2020: Advocacy and 2021: Remember the Times.

Celebrities who take the stage are another added expense of homecoming. The school has brought countless stars to the stage including Drake in 2008, Lil Baby in 2018, Saweetie and Kanye West in 2019 and Rae Sremmurd in 2021.

The financial impact of homecoming affects not only the local community, but also the thousands of students and alumni buying outfits and event tickets.

“I’m honestly expecting to spend around $300 to $400 if I’m being honest,” said senior sports medicine major Krysten Henley. “I’ll have to get my hair done, nails, new outfits, LOL the whole nine.”

In-person events were restricted to current students last year and required use of the Bison SAFE app to ensure COVID protocols were followed. Tickets were distributed the day before for events such as the Greek step show, fashion show and indoor YardFest. The events were free, and students lined up from The Yard to Cramton box office until the tickets ran out.

This year’s football game against Delaware State will take place on Saturday, Oct. 22. Tickets are on sale on the athletic department website for up to $60.

A full in-person homecoming also means businesses will have vendor opportunities throughout the week.

Kegler is a barber and will be offering his services for those wanting a fresh look for all the photo opportunities soon to come.

“I will try to do a haircut discount for homecoming week through my Linktree website in my Instagram bio @thekobekegler,” he said. “The link is titled “KutzByK.”

Vendor applications for 2022 homecoming can be found here, and announcements for all homecoming events can be found on the Howard University website.

Expectations are high for this year, and curiosity is growing for YardFest performances. The concert will take place on Friday, Oct. 21, and Saturday, Oct.22.

Senior broadcast journalism major Gregory Coleman is hoping to see performances from household names.

“I want to see Lil Baby and Flo Milli. Obviously Kendrick and J. Cole as well.”

Kegler expects the homecoming committee to go above and beyond for his first full in-person experience.

“I expect food vendors, celebrity appearances, contests, pretty much day party type of events throughout the week and exclusive opportunities to do some pretty cool things,” he said. “I doubt there will be a single day I would wanna miss.”

Myia Borland is a reporter for HUNewsService.com and an Inside Climate News Environmental Justice Fellow.