Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
We are in the midst of historically Black college and university homecoming season in African America. This weekend, for instance, at least seven HBCUs will welcome alumni, friends family and curious onlookers to their campuses to revel in the tried-and-true tradition of tailgating, communing, remembering, celebrating and wondering what could have been, all in super-Black spaces. Dozens more schools have homecoming on the horizon; October is basically homecoming season for the vast majority of us alumni and attendees of HBCUs across the country. What a wonderful time in Black America.
As I near my 20th time attending the homecoming festivities of Morehouse College and Spelman College (SpelHouse is how we’re usually referred) — I graduated in 2001 and only missed four homecomings, including the COVID years — I often reflect upon things I’ve learned during the decades I’ve ventured to Atlanta each fall to celebrate with the homies. I’d like to share some of those lessons and insights with you, especially if you’re 20-plus years away from graduation (or looking to get there in your own life, eventually). Look, sharing is care and I care. Let’s go.
1. Comfort has definitely overtaken flyness in terms of my tailgate drip. Fly comfort is now the name of the game.
I will never wear Chuck Taylors again in my life when I may be on my feet for upwards of 10 hours. When I hit campus for tailgating, I NEVER sit down. I spend so much time going from tent to tent and section to section that, at some point, my feet will start to burn. Now, I make sure I have on comfortable shoes for all the walking. You should, too. Just a suggestion, really. Also, that fly outfit no matter the weather? Such a terrible idea. I get it; I’ve done it myself. I’ve also been cold. Thank goodness I always hop out of my bed and turn my swag on immediately. That is a joke from 2008, by the way.
2. Moderation is actually important these days.
I used to walk around with a bookbag full of all sorts of fine liquors. And I would drink all of it, with the help of the homies, of course. We USED to start our tailgatery with shots of 151. We were unserious people; I have no idea why we thought this was a good idea. There are videos and pictures of a group of us literally passing around multiple bottles of 151 and downing them. 2023 me would never, could never. 2023 me looks at THAT version of me and literally shakes my head at him. Plus, you don’t want to be the 40- or 50-plus drunk person. Something just doesn’t look right about professional-aged folks being pissy drunk and splayed out while good times happen around them. Nope, now I consider my alcohol intake and listen to my body. You aren’t about to turn me into a meme at my big age.
3. I still can’t imagine my kids at a tailgate after, say 12 noon.
It never fails. Every year, I find myself feeling truly sorry for some person who is trying to push a stroller or carry multiple kids through the throngs of people who literally don’t care about ANYTHING but joy, in whatever state they’re in. The stress on the parents’ faces is one I know, but one I’ve never had to know because of homecoming. Fridays on campus are perfect kid days. Commiserating in the yard or attending events seems just fine for family events. Moderating your liquor intake because you literally have to keep your eyes on your kids OR not being able to walk around aimlessly seems like a downer. I don’t judge anybody who brings their kids out there; I get it. It’s an experience like none other. I also think that the experience is ours; the kids can get theirs once they get accepted. Also, let me point out that this only matters if your homecoming tailgate is popping. If it isn’t, well, I feel sorry for your homecoming.
4. At this point, I just prefer to let homecoming come to me instead of going out with goals.
This is obviously dependent on where you are in life. Me? I’m married right now so there is zero pressure on my homecoming trips. It’s 100% about the shenanigans with the homies and cruising through Atlanta, remembering where we were when that thing happened with you know who and ‘nem. For some, though, homecoming is “shoot your shot” central. I do wonder if that still looks the same after all of these years. How many unsuccessful shots do you have to take before it just looks creepy? I mean, perseverance and tenacity are usually admired but I think it is important to know where folks are in life compared to where you are when taking a little bit too long on those hugs. I’m just saying, let the joy be 80% of the experience.
5. I might start hitting up galas at some point, but Saturday night is now for house parties.
I used to be on party time after tailgating. Now I’m on house party time after tailgating because the absolute bare minimum is what I’m trying to do after spending ALL DAY outside hugging thousands of people and pretending to know a thousand more names that belong to faces I might know. I do fully expect, at some point, to start going to events with tuxedos that ask for donations, but I’m just not there yet. A house party, however, checks everything I look for at homecoming: friends, seats, wings and joy. Sign me up. 10/10. Highly recommend. No notes.
Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things, drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest), but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said: “Unknown” (Blackest).
Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on -’s app; download it here.