After a slow start, MU has come a long way in terms of including blacks in its Homecoming celebration.
The school, which once prompted protests over the playing of “Dixie” at sports events and booed the first black Homecoming royalty in 1985, today includes a traditionally black fraternity in Greek house decoration skits.
Some minority members, however, say MU needs to be more proactive in making Homecoming a multicultural event.
When the celebrations began in 1911, MU had no minority students. The first black student didn’t attend MU until 1950.
“Homecoming is a legacy from the beginning, and minorities weren’t around in the beginning,” MU senior Kemyell Reeves said. “So, of course you have to add minority traditions.”
For those feeling overlooked by the main Homecoming celebration, some groups are establishing what they hope will become new traditions. The Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center, along with its co-sponsors, will host the second annual Black Family Reunion today through Sunday.
“Black Family Reunion events are designed for underrepresented minority students, faculty, staff and alumni to increase participation in Mizzou’s Homecoming activities,” said Amanda Clarence, director of the center and chairwoman of the reunion.
Some said these sentiments are founded in the fact that no black sororities or fraternities are located in Greek town, the site of many Homecoming events. Some minorities feel excluded from those who participate in activities such as house decorating, the Homecoming parade or the blood drive.
Minority students, staff and faculty said they look forward to the celebration.
“The University has their Homecoming, and it is not geared toward minorities,” said Meggan Marberry, president of the Legion of Black Collegians. “This is our own Homecoming. It’s a place for minority alumni to return and share their experiences with students.”
The reunion provides a different atmosphere from traditional celebrations.
“The Black Family Reunion provides a family atmosphere that includes minorities that wouldn’t participate otherwise,” Reeves said.
Lamara Warren, a former student and current coordinator for multicultural student groups at Washington University in St. Louis, recalled the lack of minority inclusion when she was a student at MU from 1992-96 for undergraduate studies and 2000-02 for graduate studies.
“When I was a student at MU, there were not a lot of activities that the black students felt were planned with them in mind,” Warren said. “So, it is good to know that there are diverse initiatives planned for Homecoming to meet the needs of many students.”
Minority participation is key
Some think participation in events takes a positive effort from minority students, not just the University.
“Minorities have to be representatives for Homecoming committees, and minority organizations need to send representatives to meetings,” said Mable Jones Grimes, a former MU student.
According to Warren, 100 to 200 alumni from the St. Louis area are expected to attend. Overall, about 300 to 400 alumni are expected.
The reunion is not only about the festivities; it also serves as a way for students to meet and network with alumni.
“I am going to attend the mix-and-mingle event so that I can talk with alumni,” said Jennifer Graves, a junior business major.
Warren was excited to return to her alma mater and said she thinks this event is a way for her to reconnect with peers and faculty and to refocus and recommit herself to recruiting minority students to MU.
Andre Thorn, assistant director of Academic Retention Services, and others said that until the experiences of minority students at MU are pushed to the forefront, there will always be a need for events such as this.
“Ideally, Homecoming should include all student experiences, but it doesn’t,” Thorn said. “And until it does, there will be a need for a Black Family Reunion and a Hispanic Family Reunion and so forth.”
The Black Family Reunion tailgate will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of the Black Culture Center. There will be a post-game social hour in Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union. Other events include a “Get Acquainted Hour” in Jesse Hall at 6 p.m. today and a comedy show at 7:30 p.m. in Jesse Auditorium.
Events will conclude at 11 a.m. Sunday with a service at St. Paul’s AME Church at 501 Park Ave.
Although the events are geared toward minority faculty, students and alumni, the events are open to all.
For more information about the events, call the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center at 882-2664.