One of the most anticipated traditions at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) is their fall homecoming, but with the coronavirus pandemic keeping many students off-campus and preventing large public gatherings, BET and YouTube Originals launched HBCU Homecoming 2020: Meet Me On The Yard online event on Saturday, Oct. 24.
The online event was hosted by La La Anthony and Grammy-winning rapper 2 Chainz. The star-studded livestream also featured performances from artists ranging from hip-hop, R&B and gospel, from Ari Lennox, Saweetie, Chloe X Halle and Tye Tribbett to DJ Clue, Spillage Village, NLE Choppa and 2 Chainz himself.
READ MORE: HBCU students keeping COVID-19 count low at their schools
On top of the chart-busting singers and rappers, Meet Me On The Yard featured the hallmarks of an HBCU homecoming; stepping performances from the Divine 9 and dynamic marching bands in Jackson State University’s Sonic Boom of the South and FAMU’s Marching 100.
There were also special recordings and appearances from Black stars like actor John David Washington, a Howard alum, Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier, a Morgan State alum, as well as singer/songwriter K. Michelle, TV personality Fonzworth Bentley, comedian/actress Amanda Seales, and more.
Saturday’s festivities were produced by Live Nation Urban and Jesse Collins Entertainment. Much of the proceeds of the livestream will go to both the United Negro College Fund and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Meet Me On The Yard will be an important watch for in-coming HBCU students who are missing out of their first homecoming experience that are unique to Black colleges. With the pandemic spoiling so many events, it looks to still provide a spirited alternative lets everyone see the sororities and fraternities step, marching bands battles, and so much of what many HBCU graduates have seen for decades.
The livestream follows a similar format as the online commencement special last May, Show Me Your Walk, HBCU Edition. The virtual graduation special featured several guest speakers, including a special graduation address from former President Barack Obama.
READ MORE: Barack Obama slams U.S. COVID-19 response, says crisis highlights racial inequalities in HBCU virtual commencement speech
It is also part of a new initiative by YouTube Originals to focus more on scripted and unscripted Black programming. A fund called the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund is dedicating $100 million to be used “to amplifying and developing the voices of Black creators and artists and their stories.” Such stories and programs will be accumulated and premiered over a three-year period.
One of the programs aided by this initiative is Together We Rise, a limited documentary series about Britain’s underground rap music subculture of Grime.
Another YouTube Original project that helped lead to the #YouTubeBlack Voices is Resist, a documentary series featuring Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors that focuses on mass incarceration and over-policing in the Black American communities.