HBCUs are Thicker than Blood
It was the first time, in history, that we would ever face this school in our home gym. To put things into perspective, let your mind float back to the 2000 classic film Bring It On. We were the all black, foot stomping East Compton Clovers and our opponents were the better funded yet stiff San Diego's Rancho Carne Toro.
It was the basketball court battle between a small serving HBCU and a dominating PWI inside the Carter Gymnasium . A small gym with only one side for fans to sit. No centralized heating or air. No cute track to walk on or high class amenities. It was the CARTER. When people say I got it out the mud, they were talking about the Carter honey.
But if you are a true HBCU student, graduate or supporter, you know we could care LESS if you have the better building or the nicer uniforms. You are in our house tonight. And it’s winner takes all. It was going to be night for everyone to remember. There wasn’t a soul left in an academic building or dorm room that night. We packed into that gym like it was the last game of the century. Standing room only to say the least.
The ref blows the whistle and it’s game on. The coaches were yelling. The fans were screaming. Greg Nyce on the 1s and 2s. The players were sweating and even the cheerleaders were battling. Oooooooh yes ...the cheerleaders were battling. Let me tell you about it …
This was one of my favorite moments in the Carter. The opposing team called a full-time out which brought both teams off in the bench and into a huddle. As the teams crowded around the coaches to strategize on the next play, a hush fell over the crowd. Fitted in a perfectly pressed white uniform, one of the cheerleaders decided to demonstrate her gymnastic abilities by tumbling from one end of the gym down to our side. She flipped and she flipped, and she flipped, until she made it about ¾ the length of the gym then turned to our cheerleaders as if to say “take that!”
In the Black Negroe Bible this is called a challenge which requires an immediate response. The response is to be jaw dropping and more profound than the initial challenge and therefore must be carried out by the right individual. We all knew who could deliver it. In a swift movement, the crowd focused on our go to cheerleader: a black male standing tall with his hands on his hips and a slick smirk on his face. We all knew he could flip the brakes off this girl and add an extra twirl at the end for some razzle dazzle. Yet, instead of executing his jumps, he stood and shook his head. To this day, I do not know if he did not want to tumble, if he was thinking “Little girl, not tuh-night” or if he was nervous due to the intensity of the crowd. I never had the chance to process his decision because breaking from the team huddle was the head basketball coach. Our coach (and my daddy) was not a quiet man. If he had something to say, trust and believe baby, he was going to say it. He took a few steps away from his team who were wondering where he was going. I mean … bruh … we still trying to figure out this next play. But in that moment, the play could wait. Commanding the attention of our cheerleader he yelled, “WYMAN! GET HER!!!!!!” and pointed directly at the cheerleader who was about to get ROCKED!
Without hesitation Wyman flipped, and flipped, and flipped, and flipped, and flipped, and flipped until he was right in front of the cheerleader. And on that last flip he turned as if to say “Now take that!” Annnnnnd the crowd goes wild!
The score could have been 21 - 80 but at that moment, we won. It was over. Ya’ll can pack up your little student section and head pack up the hill because tonight you learned a valuable lesson: we ain’t with that rah-rah in the Carter. We come together. We are one. And we come to win. The winning transcends past the court and into our everyday lives. Committing yourself to the HBCU experience comes with an understanding that our family is thicker than blood. Living in tight quarters, breaking bread in the cafe and creating memories on the yard ingrains an eternal bond that transcends the test of time. That’s why we come back to this campus every year. The family always finds its way back to the table. The gravitational pull to a familiar place where we can come to laugh about the good ol’ days while establishing new memories is the connection to our heart’s desire. It’s home. Yet home will feel different this time …
Yesterday, the Lord found it necessary for us to relive these moments but in the most unfortunate way possible. Someone took Wyman from us. Without warning. Without explanation. The person everyone knew. The cheerleader. Orientation team member. Creme’ member. Honorary member of the dance team. Everybody’s laughter but is never afraid to gather you in a heartbeat.
A family member is gone but let me tell you … he is not forgotten. Whether I see a purple bag and think of him saying “You know I carry rocks in my purse” or when I hear “Yes I am Believer” playing on the radio and remember him yelling “SANG GRIMACE!” with the OT choir, the pure joy he brought each of us is one the biggest blessings our family must hold onto. It must encourage us to force others to either love my PC or leave PC. Because on THIS campus … we ain’t with that rah-rah.