By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
With more Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) than any other state in the country, with the Magic City Classic the largest HBCU football rivalry in the nation and with hundreds of HBCU alums in the city, including the mayor, few places can serve as a better host for the HBCU SpringComing than Birmingham, Alabama on March 17-19.
“What better place to really double down our efforts and showcase [HBCUs’] contributions than in Birmingham, Alabama,” said Cornell Wesley, director of the city’s office of Innovation and Economic Opportunity and an HBCU grad who attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA.
HBCU SpringComing Birmingham will bring together alumni, advocates and allies of HBCUs for a weekend of networking, professional development.
Across the two days at locations across the downtown area, as far north as City Walk and as far south as Michael’s, attendees can take part in a three-hour long “career incubator” session from sponsor Indeed, win scholarships, attend a wine tasting for Black-owned wineries, a tennis clinic and receptions.
One of the most anticipated events will be “School Daze: The Yard” on March 18 in Linn Park from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. with guest DJs, games, vendor tents, food trucks and more.
Mayor Randall Woodfin, another Morehouse grad, said the city is “excited to once again welcome” the SpringComing after 2022’s successful debut.
“As a proud HBCU alum, I look forward to the wonderful events and programs that celebrate the love and pride for our schools and our culture … Birmingham is a place to make memories that will last a lifetime.”
Council President Wardine Alexander said SpringComing is an opportunity to show young professionals and students from around the U.S. what the city “has to offer in terms of careers, entertainment and higher education.”
“In addition to hosting the Magic City Classic [between Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University], which is the largest annual HBCU event in the country, it’s important that we continue to position Birmingham as a leader for these types of events that celebrate HBCUs and Black excellence,” said Alexander.
Last year’s SpringComing was a “vibe,” Wesley said, highlighting the Yard event where scholarships were given out to high school students.
“The global picture is the introduction to education and what’s possible, hence the investment in those students by way of those scholarships, so as we celebrate our own respective experiences at all of these HBCUs, the idea is to honor and expose those experiences,” Wesley said.
Birmingham is only the second city to host SpringComing, outside of New York, and the fact that the organizers sought out the city speaks volumes, Wesley said.
“As much as we are fans of our hometown, to [know] that an independent brand saw this as an opportunity and saw that it made sense and that there would be a mutual beneficial experience from it is something to be proud of,” Wesley said.
Bobbie Knight, president of Miles College in Fairfield, said HBCUs ”play a vital role in the educational landscape” pointing to 80 percent of Black judges; 50 percent of Black lawyers and 40 percent of Black members of Congress all graduated from HBCUs.
Citing a 2017 study from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, commissioned by the United Negro College Fund, Knight said, “HBCUs benefit the students who use the valuable skills they bring to the workplace [and] the communities where they are located. These institutions are significant drivers of essential economic activity on and off campus. Investing in HBCUs pays significant and lasting dividends.”
While HBCUs make up a minority of educational institutions in the U.S., institutions like Miles provide many unique benefits.
“Miles College provides [students] an immersion in their culture, an education that will advance them to numerous places in the world and a community that will work alongside them to ensure they succeed at every intersection,” said the school’s president.
A Larger Homecoming
JamesAaron Pierre Jr., director of alumni affairs at Miles College, said SpringComing brings the HBCU homecoming experience to a larger set of people than just one campus.
“It’s an energy like no other, whether it’s from the tailgating, when you see the marching bands, the Greek organizations, your former professors and all those different things, it’s just a welcome back to the campus and everything after a semester or those few months of being in the real world,” Pierre said.
“It’s just a special, special feeling at an HBCU campus,” he added.
At last year’s event, Pierre said, he met people from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University based in Tallahassee, Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, and Clark Atlanta University in Georgia, among alumni from other predominantly Black schools.
In his role at Miles, Pierre said he pitches alumni and students alike to come out to SpringComing simply to network and see what others are doing.
“Come talk to them, come to these events and see these people that are putting these things on and seeing the energy, that we’re continuing to showcase the importance of HBCUs,” Pierre said.
For more information or to RSVP, go to https://www.hbcuspringcoming.com.