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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

25 years later, LBC Homecoming continues

Homecoming celebrations highlight potential racial divides still present at MU.

MU graduate and LBC 2010 Homecoming Queen Lauren Grant shouts Alpha Kappa Alpha's “skee wee” after winning the title of queen at Stoney Creek Inn. Grant was joined by graduate Brian Hamilton as Homecoming king at the LBC Homecoming Ball.

Maneater File Photo

Graduate Oghosa Lyame celebrates graduate Brian Hamilton's win as the Legion of Black Collegians Homecoming king during the LBC Homecoming Ball at the Stoney Creek Inn in 2010. LBC royalty was crowned during the ball, whereas royalty for the Mizzou Alumni Association was crowned during the Homecoming football game.

Maneater File Photo

Oct. 23, 2013

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Homecoming 2013

Chester L. Brewer had a vision in 1911.

Brewer wanted alumni to come home to Columbia for the football game against Kansas. That year, more than 9,000 fans crowded into Rollins Field to watch the game against Missouri’s biggest rival.

Since then, the MU tradition of Homecoming has continued with themes, parades, talent competitions, football games and more and more alumni, year after year, all coming home.

Not everyone was included, however.

At the time when Brewer envisioned alumni coming home, black students were not allowed to attend MU. It was 39 years after the first Homecoming that MU admitted its first black student, and 57 years later that the Legion of Black Collegians formed to provide the black student voice on campus.

Admitting black students and the black student voice to campus were not enough to ensure the black student perspective was represented for Homecoming.

Creation of LBC Homecoming

In 1988, the Mizzou Alumni Association’s Homecoming celebration was built on the theme “Show me Ol’ Mizzou.”

Former LBC President Jacquie Judie was quoted in the Oct. 18, 1988, issue of The Maneater saying that the “Ol’ Mizzou” theme brought to mind a past of racism and racial disharmony.

“Black students are hopeful that Mizzou is changing, and we don’t want to see the old Mizzou,” Judie said in 1988.

So, LBC created its own Homecoming, with a separate theme and separate court. The LBC theme, “Show Me a New Mizzou. Black to the Future,” focused on the future of MU and expressed the hope that minority students’ situation will improve, Judie said.

It has been 25 years since the first LBC Homecoming, and the tradition continues. Although the celebration ended briefly in 1995, it was revived in 2008, and this year, the LBC Homecoming celebration is thriving.

Minority Representation in the Alumni Association Homecoming

The Homecoming Steering Committee has made efforts to make Homecoming more inclusive in recent years, said senior Jordan Denker, a Mizzou Alumni Association Homecoming tri-director. Anyone can participate in the blood drive, the day of service, the parade, Decorate the District, the in-between acts during the talent competition, or audition to sing the National Anthem and apply to be on the steering committee.

“We encourage any student to be involved,” Denker said.

Minority organizations have made efforts to be a larger part of Homecoming festivities. In 2003, specifically, the new Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center director Amanda Clarence asked for black alumni to return to MU to become a bigger part of the Homecoming festivities.

And historically, black students have not been completely absent from the alumni association’s Homecoming. For example, 1971 marked the first year a black woman, Jill Young, became Homecoming queen. In 1984, a black Homecoming king was elected, and the next year, Vivian King and Marvin Cobbs were the first black Homecoming king and queen pairing to win the crown.

Black students have been represented in Homecoming recently, as well. Last year, Xavier Billingsley was crowned Homecoming king, and numerous black students have been involved on the Homecoming Steering Committee.

LBC President Marnae Chavers said representation is more than having a black Homecoming king or queen, though.

“I think people think that just because a king was black or a queen was black, that that’s it,” Chavers said. “... It’s not just the representation, but it’s the implementation of different ideas that attract different cultures.”

Still, the organizations most involved in the Homecoming celebrations are Greek chapters. Chapters are paired together the semester before Homecoming and members pour endless hours and countless dollars to create floats, campus decorations and talent skits.

Mizzou Black Men’s Initiative President Lindsay Murray said the biggest issue with inclusivity in Homecoming is with peer communication, especially during his freshman year when the MU Student Center, the central location for student communication, did not exist.

“A lot of people, including myself, want to be involved in Homecoming on the larger scale,” Murray said. “But you have to look at someone like me: I’m not Greek. If I wasn’t involved with any organizations of any kind, I probably wouldn’t know anything about Homecoming.”

Much of Greek involvement in Homecoming is a continuation of tradition and is not a bad thing, Chavers said. It just requires other forms of involvement as well.

“People celebrate in different ways,” Chavers said. “So with the alumni association’s (events) being very Greek-centered, it’s great for students who are Greek, but for students who aren’t Greek, they should have things like that, too.”

Just Another Celebration

Although LBC’s celebration began as a separate entity for black students, Chavers said it is not a separate celebration. It is just LBC celebrating Homecoming with events that are not sponsored by the alumni association.

“I don’t think there is a separation like people try to make it be,” Chavers said.

LBC’s Homecoming celebration allows black students and alumni to return to their homebase, which for many is the black community, Murray said.

“It’s not an attempt for the African-American community to divide ourselves,” Murray said. “It’s tradition.”

LBC and the Homecoming Steering Committee communicate when planning their schedules so that events do not conflict, Chavers said. Chavers added that many black students also participate in alumni association Homecoming events in addition to the LBC events.

Cathy Scroggs, the vice chancellor of student affairs, said she supports LBC and other organizations hosting additional Homecoming events.

“If students want to do things to make them feel more a part of festivities, then they should do it,” Scroggs said. “If LBC wants to do things to make them feel included, more power to them.”

A Divide, A Discussion

LBC’s Homecoming celebration may be more of a tradition nowadays, but this does not mean there is not a divide on campus in some ways.

Chavers said black students often face different challenges than other students. Some of these issues include a lower academic retention rate and more difficulties finding money. Others felt a deeper divide.

“I definitely do feel like (LBC’s Homecoming) is necessary,” said Deshaunya Ware, president of the Mizzou Black Women’s Initiative. “I know I, personally, still do not feel welcomed at Mizzou at some of the organizations and some of the traditions. I think Mizzou is a great school, but I think we are still stuck in our traditional ways.”

Many of MU’s alumni were at MU when it was at a very different stage of racial inclusivity, Ware said.

“It’s hard to move forward and make progress when some of those people don’t want to change,” Ware said.

The divide is not just created from MU’s history of racial divides but is also created when students get stuck where they are comfortable. For Murray, he was most comfortable with the black community.

“As soon as I found my homebase, I found it easier to branch out,” Murray said, “The problem with that is when whenever people find homebase and then stay home and never branchout.”

The biggest issue is often not talking about racial divides, Ware said. Ware said the black community often talks about divides on campus but that is not enough.

“We always talk about being One Mizzou, but I think as a whole, as an MU community, we all need to come together and figure out ways to move on from these racial divides because they are on campus,” Ware said. “... We need to all stop just talking about being One Mizzou and actually do something about it.”

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