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Homecomings Go Virtual At Historically Black Colleges And Universities

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Homecoming is pretty much the party of the year at historically Black colleges and universities. How to party, though, in the midst of the pandemic? Naomi Prioleau of member station WUNC reports from one university in North Carolina.

NAOMI PRIOLEAU, BYLINE: North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro bills its homecoming as the greatest homecoming on Earth. And normally, it's filled with celebrities, parties and, of course, football and band.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

PRIOLEAU: But now homecoming looks a little different. This year, it's all virtual.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: So a few ways to watch and participate this weekend - we have on demand, live stream and registration required. So on demand...

PRIOLEAU: NC A&T canceled homecoming in June because of the coronavirus. Normally, 100,000 people show up, bringing roughly $10 million into the local Greensboro economy. Ken Sigmon is an A&T vice chancellor.

KEN SIGMON: After we saw all the numbers, we realized we were going to have to cancel our homecoming activities not only because of the sheer volume of people but also the fact that, you know, this has impacted the African American community more than others.

PRIOLEAU: When alumni first heard the news about an online homecoming, they were understanding. But then...

TERESA DAVIS: Once it set in - oh, we're not going to have a homecoming this year (laughter).

PRIOLEAU: Teresa Davis is a 1989 graduate of NC A&T and is the associate vice chancellor for alumni relations.

DAVIS: I've been coming to homecoming for 15, 20, 30, 50 years. There's not a homecoming. What are we going to do?

PRIOLEAU: NC A&T joins a list of other HBCUs holding online events. Howard University in Washington, D.C., had a virtual happy hour and Zoom sessions on racial justice. Xavier University in Louisiana is having a virtual golf tournament. At A&T, they did a DJ battle, karaoke, and last night hosted a trivia party.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Your friends might convince you to do this instead of studying. Is it A, more gym parties and a predawn? Is it B, libations? Is it C, go to UNCG or Bennett? Or is it D, hang out at Burger King?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: A (laughter).

PRIOLEAU: North Carolina is home to roughly a dozen HBCUs. And nationally, there are over a hundred. Homecoming at an HBCU is more than just school pride. Davis says it's a celebration, a lifestyle and a family reunion of sorts.

DAVIS: It's just the time to come together and breathe. And this is, like, I'm home - and just being with each other and reminiscing and reflecting and enjoying each other's company.

PRIOLEAU: And they're still enjoying each other's company, even if it's virtually. For NPR News, I'm Naomi Prioleau in Greensboro, N.C.

(SOUNDBITE OF FAMU MARCHING 100'S "ICE CREAM MAN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.