'Tis the season for HBCU homecomings. From now through November, thousands of college alumni from historically black institutions will descend on campuses across the South. Employers, please understand why the few African Americans at your workplace are taking Fridays off from now until November. Non-HBCU grads, please be patient with your black college friends who keep crowing about how excited they are for homecoming. They mean no harm with their college chants and incessant telling of tales from the yard. HBCU homecomings are like a black family reunion, minus the tacky T-shirt with an oak tree on it. It's a posh celebration and mass arrival of those who feel they've arrived.
This year may be tougher than most on home-going alums, what with the economy bottoming out. So before you sing your first note of Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing or finish getting a new 'do hooked up, here are a few tips on how to enjoy homecoming on a budget.
1) Pack light—Airlines' fees are outrageous these days. In September, Continental jacked their fees up to $15 for the first checked bag. American Airlines charges $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for the second. Black college graduates, especially the older ones, have a fetish for animal coats. Leave the chinchilla-collar coats and sorority/fraternity colored leather pantsuits at home. All they do is take up space in your luggage. Yes, I know you went on a shopping spree, but now is not the time to stunt fashion wise. Baggage fees are just a fashion tax. Accept it.
2) Skip the club parties—You know what I'm talking about. The parties with the glossy flyers and e-mail campaigns. The parties with their own Facebook groups. On the cheap, they cost $40. On the high-end, you may end up dropping $100. You went to college, which probably means you are not a recording artist and you don't have the money to waste. These club promoters are greedy. Just host a suite party at a hotel for you and your friends. Or throw a house party with your friends. You'll like the guest list much better at your own party. Or gather at a bar. You get the pleasure of drinking in the streets, and you won't have to deal with obscene lines at a club.
3) Skip game tickets—While homecoming is technically centered around a big Saturday football game against another HBCU, you really go to homecoming to connect. Fill up your water bottle with your special drink and cruise the yard. Most HBCUs don't have large stadiums anyway. And you may even lose a few pounds walking around the yard instead of being cramped in a football stadium. And if you're worried about missing the halftime show, not to worry. The band always comes out on campus to play afterward anyway.
4) No new boots—One pre-requisite for homecoming is a bad pair of boots, but I say don't do it this year. A good pair of boots can run you the cost of a plane ticket. A bad pair of boots just looks bad. So save the money, visit a shoe shop and get your old boots polished and the heels redone.
5) Keep an eye open for the freebies—Companies who want to market to affluent African Americans flood homecoming celebrations. Be on the look out for free nail polish, new CDs, T-shirts and whatever else people are trying to push to black folks. True, it's a little like a drug dealer giving you a free crack rock so you get hooked, but stuff happens. Take the freebies and run!
Natalie P. McNeal is a South Florida writer, and she will be missing her college's homecoming this year. She's waiting for the presidential inauguration, which will be the real black reunion. She blogs at The Frugalista Files.