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The Mecca of Gaming, Howard Esports Team’s Rise to Victory   

Members of the Call of Duty (CoD) team after advancing to the finals of the Mountain Dew Real Change Challenge. 

Deanté Taylor came to Howard University from Trinidad in 2019. As someone who was a gamer his entire life, he came to the United States looking for more. However, he was disappointed to come to campus and see no esports presence whatsoever. After meeting with the university president, Taylor was a key catalyst to the genesis of esports at Howard. 

The esports team, just a few members then, had to work through much adversity. It was a new space, with little to no resources.  

“Our first tournament was a Fortnite tournament. We came out second runner-ups, which wasn’t bad at all because compared to our other competitors, we had no proper system setups, no proper equipment. We were even on dorm wifi,” Taylor recalled. “I had to call my dorm manager to get the wifi working so I could compete. It took a long time, but eventually got it to work, it was our first victory lap. I was really proud of our performance. From there we started to build our organization up.” 

The organization, now called the Howard University Esports Association, consists of multiple teams who each specialize in a particular game. The Call of Duty team, for example, is on the road to competing for a prize pool of $500,000 in the upcoming Mountain Dew Real Change Challenge competition. 

Mountain Dew is currently in partnership with Cxmmunity Gaming, a non-profit organization with a mission to increase the participation of minorities within the esports industry. In addition to the cash prize, players will get the chance to sign a professional contract. This opportunity is both new and unheard of, especially at a Historically Black College or University (HBCU). 

“Having HBCUs in this realm is important because it is going to expose the Black community to something we aren’t used to, and be a drive in keeping the generation going. We have a lot of potential in the Black community to go professional, yet it’s not really being realized because we don’t have the same equipment or resources as our white counterparts,” Taylor explained.

Taylor went on to clarify that this disparity in the industry goes in conjunction with the fact that these games require a lot of resources in order to have a fun, successful experience. Partnering with Cxmmunity has helped the team alleviate these stressors, including landing a sponsorship with Verizon, who funded their brand new gaming lab. 

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As the esports team continues to grow, Howard has taken on new ways to expand the presence of the industry on campus, including implementing an esports degree program. Reese Samuel, a senior psychology major on the team, has taken advantage of this opportunity, declaring esports as his current minor. 

“It has been amazing to me to see African Americans in a space that people stereotype them out of. It is amazing to be in a space where I can feel like I belong and a space where I can chase my dream. Especially with the competition being HBCUs, I believe it is a shared experience for my whole team,” Samuel expressed.

“Being on the team has been great. We have a lot of team spirit and pride in what we do. It feels good to be seen and noticed. Outside of that I love the environment that the team creates. There has been some hard times, especially starting out. But I’m really excited for the future of Howard esports and creating more partnerships,” Taylor agreed. 

The team, a part of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Esports Division, are able to compete against other HBCUs. Howard has been reigning champions for the last three seasons, and are looking to capture more success in the future.

Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee

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