Jair Hilburn, Editor-In-Chief
When you’re told that you have the chance to see an advanced screening of Beyoncé’s new documentary “Homecoming” there is nothing else to do except be in attendance. From the note changes to the production to the quality of the video, I fell in love with her performance all over again, but I was also reminded of the importance of HBCUs.
Before going to the event, I ran into a friend and told her that she should go. When I was asked why, I told that something feels different about today. At first thought, I assumed that Beyoncé would walk into Sisters Chapel, but afterward, I realized that feeling that made April 16 different was how I’d feel leaving the screening. When the film was over a my friend and I were talking about how she was close to crying after realizing how important and special it is that we are in a space like Spelman College, Morehouse College, and HBCUs as a whole.
I had spent a good portion of 2018 watching Beyoncé’s Coachella performance, but watching the film was as if I had seen it for the first time. It was definitely the first time since the live performance that I saw it in high quality, but this time I had so much pride for my school – and HBCUs as a whole – like never before.
Throughout the film, there are well done transitions between the performances and the work that went into putting the show together. In that, we see quotes from multiple well-respected figures in Black history from HBCUs. Those quotes were inspiring alone.
Seeing these words of wisdom made me realize that I am in the same space that they were in. I have potential to be one of the people quoted because that is what these campuses are known for – sharpening the minds of the Black diaspora and that kind of fine tuning is something that you can only get at an HBCU.
As the title of the documentary can tell you, that Coachella performance was one that paid homage to the culture of homecoming at these institutions. HBCU homecomings are of another world because there is so much pride and love from people – whether they are alumni or students – for their respective institution. In the documentary there is reference to that feeling when homecoming season rolls around, and it was interesting to see how that vibe was brought on stage.
While making the performance, Beyoncé wanted to ensure that Black people across the spectrum were represented. It didn’t have Black people that looked one particular way. They came in different shades and body types with different skills.
That’s the same environment you’ll walk into when at an HBCU.
Often times, that gets overlooked because when you’re in the space for so long it becomes a part of your normal. “Homecoming” reminded me that these schools are a hub for different forms of Blackness. Looking into the crowd as we swag surf and celebrate this moment in Sisters Chapel, I was reminded that we share the same melanin, but we’re still different in the best way imaginable.
Everybody had something that made them unique, so when the film played, I saw those differences being celebrated on a big screen with a spotlight on them instead of being pushed into the back.
In today’s climate, I feel as though HBCUs are needed more than ever. Beyoncé’s performances – just like her career – has inspired so many people particularly Black folk. The same inspiration that Beyoncé gave to the world when they saw the Coachella performance doesn’t stop there, and it won’t stop until HBCUs are closed.
From the eight-counts to the live band, “Homecoming” showed me that Beyoncé’s Coachella performance wasn’t a performance. Instead, it was a statement that HBCUs are going anywhere just yet because we still need them.