The long-awaited HBCU homecoming season has finally arrived. The popularity of Howard University’s Homecoming has turned the university into a major tourist attraction for those who want to experience its traditions.
With thousands of patrons and participants making the trip to the Mecca from across the nation and nearby colleges, Howard University is not the only D.C. institution that has to prepare for an influx of tourists.
This is the case for the bakery Insomnia Cookies. Conceived in 2003 by its founder Seth Berkowitz during his matriculation at the University of Pennsylvania, the establishment opened its first store in Syracuse, New York in 2006 and has operated in the nation’s capital since 2016. The pastry shop near campus is anticipating the arrival of members of the Howard community.
“We look forward to welcoming current and former Howard University students during homecoming season,” Anne Holmes, a representative for Insomnia Cookies, said. “Insomnia currently has several limited-time offerings that add some sweetness to Howard’s upcoming Homecoming season.”
During this week students, alumni, family members and local D.C. residents will gather to celebrate one of Howard University’s most famous and anticipated traditions.
“I am super excited to see alumni come back in conjunction with our new herd of bison,” Ann Laurie Pierre, a junior biology major and Boston native said.
Ben’s Chilli Bowl, a Black-owned restaurant, plans on taking its incoming customer increase in stride by doing whatever it takes to ensure everyone has an amazing experience.
“Howard’s Homecoming is always a fun community event that we look forward to every year,” co-manager of Ben’s Chilli Bowl, Vida Ali said.
In a city that merges national and local politics, and international affairs with Black culture and a large African population, 1213 U St. NW is a national landmark and representation of the diaspora’s influence on Chocolate City.
“We always make sure to staff up and open late hours and enjoy the event,” Ali said.
Ben’s Chili Bowl was founded during the summer of 1958, by newlyweds Ben and Virginia Ali. The two struck out on the venture at a time when the rate of Black D.C. homeownership was 30%.
Virginia Ali, a native Virginian of Native American descent, worked at Industrial Bank before founding Ben’s Chili Bowl with her husband. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Ben Ali graduated from Howard University after attending several colleges and initially planning to become a medical doctor.
“My mother-in-law, Virginia Ali, who started Ben’s, said that her favorite memory of Howard Homecoming is meeting alumni who now have kids at the university,” Ali said. “She loves getting to meet the next generation of Howard students.”
From international and national tourists to politicians, entertainers, students, transplants and native Washingtonians alike, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been the homecoming spot for a long time. Howard alum Kwame Ture, a.k.a. Stokely Carmichael, a leader of the Student Non-Violence Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was a daily regular at the Bowl.
Many D.C. businesses will be under a lot of pressure to welcome all their customers. However, with their great efforts and enthusiastic plans, local businesses plan to advance the Howard Homecoming experience by welcoming old and new customers with open arms.
“I have no doubt it’s going to be a great homecoming, and being able to experience it again from the perspective of a queen is super exciting,” Pierre, the 2023-2024 Miss College of Arts and Sciences and former 2021-2022 Miss Freshman, said.
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