In this multipart series, HBCU alums share their favorite moments from their alma mater as a testament to what these institutions have meant to them.
While attending North Carolina A&T State University from 1996-2000, I was a member of the Lady Aggies Basketball team. Just about every year since we graduated, my teammates and I would meet up every October in Aggie Land for Homecoming—or as we refer to it at A&T—GHOE, “The Greatest Homecoming on Earth”.
In 2014, one of our teammates, Shawanda “She-She” Horne, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though we received news of She-She’s diagnosis before GHOE, we decided to move forward with our annual tailgate. We saw GHOE 2014 as both a time for us to come together to celebrate life and a time for “the squad” to suit up, get in the game, and go to battle with our sister as she embarked on the journey to becoming cancer-free.
We continued our tradition of having shirts made, but the shirts that year were pink, and we all wore She-She’s number, #33. In addition to the fried catfish and white bread, coleslaw, baked beans, and the other tailgate fixings, we had a cake in honor of She-She with a simple declaration written on it: “Lady Aggies…Together We Stand.” But the most memorable moment of the day was not what we wore, or even what we ate, but when we circled up in the middle of a GHOE tailgate party - with the Wobble blasting on one side and Juvenile blasting on the other – locked arms and prayed for our sister’s healing. At that moment, it was like everything paused in Aggie Land, and God tuned in to the hearts of everyone who joined with us as we sought healing on behalf of our sister.
And not to get all churchy or anything—because what can be churchier than stopping to pray in the middle of a GHOE tailgate, right–- but, in 2014, The Greatest Homecoming on Earth became the place where the greatest healing on earth was set forth. She-She underwent breast cancer surgery four days after GHOE. This year, she will be 7-years cancer-free. To God be the glory for healing, homecoming, and sisterhood.
My entire HBCU experience, both while I was in school and post-grad, has shown me the power Black colleges have to instill a sense of pride and dignity in their students. HBCUs carry within them the spirit of our ancestors, which binds us as a community. We have pride because we know that we’re a part of a movement that withstood some of the darkest moments in American history to produce a legacy of Black superheroes for us to carry on.
GHOE 2014 reminded me that resilience is fostered and strengthened in community. It confirmed the power of our bond and showed how the family you make could be just as strong, if not stronger, than the family you’re born into.
Rev. Dr. Shakeema North, Vice President of Youth Development, Equity and Inclusion at Covenant House New York