Amidst the student sit-in protest that has gained national attention, Howard hosted a pep rally for homecoming week. As cheering fans pack into the stands of Burr gymnasium, students on the other side of campus are bunkering down in tents outside of Blackburn University Center for the seventh night in a row.
Nearly a week after the start of a student sit-in protest against housing conditions, the university hosted a pep rally for students, entitled ‘Bison Madness.’ The Bison Madness event comes as one of the first in-person installments of Howard’s homecoming week, boasting the theme of “Remember the Times.” The pep rally was a rousing display, attracting over 2,000 students and spectators.
The night kicked off with a performance from the notable “SHOWTIME” marching band, accompanied by the HU cheerleaders. The deep bass of the horns and the clash of the percussion shook the building, and enlivened the audience. The beats were infectious as spectators danced and hollered from their seats. The camaraderie didn’t end there, as the first notes of “Swag Surfin” by F.L.Y (Fast Life Yungstaz) boomed from the speakers. The crowd locked arms and swayed synchronously, eager of what was to come. As the beat dropped, the stands seemed to be a sea of bouncing bodies, as an air of exhilaration washed over the waves of people.
When the initial elation died down, the host turned the patrons’ attention back to the court, where basketball players were introduced, as a preface to their upcoming season. Each player received their own moment of spotlight, as onlookers roared and cheered the athletes on. The players did their part to amp up the crowd as they threw t-shirts and other merchandise to screaming fans. At one point, Deven Richmond, senior point guard for the men’s basketball team, shocked many when he jumped over the barricade into the crowd to take a group selfie with bystanders.
One of the main events of the night featured the men’s basketball team, as they played a quick scrimmage against each other. The competition was close, but the final score closed out at 21 points for the blue team and 20 points for white. This scrimmage marks the first time that the basketball team has played for spectators this school year, 21 days before their season tip-off.
Randy Brumont, a graduate student and forward for the team, says that the energy for the night not only fired up the student body, but the players as well.
“Nights like these really get me excited for the season,” Brumant said, “To see all the people come out and show support, like the energy is crazy in here”.
The high-spirits were lasting throughout the night, as students participated in a half-court shot contest and a lively dance-off, where a member of the freshman class was declared the winner after showcasing an unbeatable dougie.
Jamison Darden, a junior biology major, says that she was excited to come out and celebrate, after missing homecoming the previous year.
“Everyone here is just really excited to be outside, to be on campus, we’re just excited,” Darden said, “It’s our first homecoming in a year and it’s so exciting to see all these new faces.”
Before the night came to a close, one more dazzling display was put on for the student body. Members of five Divine 9 sororities and fraternities all shared the court in a heated stroll-off. The organizations that could be spotted strutting the arena were Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. By the end of the rally, the buzz of the crowd hit a peak, and almost no one could be found sitting still in their seats.
Though well attended, the university’s hosting of the pep rally did not go without critique. Due to the current social climate on campus in regards to student protests, some have accused the administration of trying to distract the public with homecoming events.
A sophomore student who requested to go by the name of Tia, in order to preserve her identity, has been sitting in at Blackburn for almost a week. Tia says that she finds the celebration of homecoming events amid the protest to be ironic.
“It’s an interesting comparison having, you know, homecoming,” Tia said. “This whole week we’re supposed to be coming together and being energetic and it’s like, it doesn’t feel right to be a part of that when there are still students without housing, and still students suffering in the housing that they do have.”
The pep rally brought a considerable turnout and appropriately kicked off the remainder of the upcoming homecoming events. At the end of the day, after all festivities come to a close many students are returning home to unfit housing conditions, and the looming truth that the fight for equalities is far from over withstands.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith