FSU blacks find solace on the Hill

Although Florida State University celebrated its homecoming last week, some minority students who attend the predominantly white university said they have school spirit, but Florida A&M University’s homecoming festivities had more to offer them.

This year’s FSU homecoming theme was “Live for the Garnet and Gold.”

“(Homecoming) doesn’t seem like it’s geared toward my people,” said Garfield Hylton, 19, a junior at FSU. “There’s nothing that screams out at me.”

Hylton, a psychology student from Ft. Lauderdale, said FSU’s homecoming concert is usually the only event he attends. He said its headliners are typically not as high-profile as those who perform at FAMU’s concert.

This year’s concert at The Moon featured rap artists Youngbloodz. The FSU Black Student Union sponsored the event.

Shawn Stephenson, 23, a 2004 FSU graduate, said the FSUBSU heavily influenced her homecoming social involvement.

“If I did anything, it was with the BSU,” said Stephenson, a Ft. Lauderdale native. “Most of the other events were centered around sororities and fraternities.”

Several undergraduates also said the majority of the activities they attended were sponsored by the FSUBSU, founded in 1968 to “offer African-American students a unique form of identity,” according to its Web site.

The organization also sponsored a homecoming pageant.

Stephenson said the difference in how the two Universities celebrate homecoming extends beyond color lines.

She said FSU primarily directs its activities inward, within the confines of the campus, while FAMU’s homecoming is a “community-based” event.

She said when she attended the University, much of homecoming was geared toward providing social activities and fundraising events for parents and alumni.

FSU’s Black Alumni Association sponsors the Annual Homecoming Fish Fry to which the general public is invited. The FSUBAA was founded in 1983 “to advocate for the presence and experience of blacks across all aspects of FSU activities and endeavors,” according to its web site.

Giselle Rojas, 21, a senior chemical engineering student at FSU said food is one of the many things she enjoys at FAMU’s festivities.

“The vendors are so much better,” said Rojas, who is from West Palm Beach. “FSU doesn’t have that ethnic diversity.”

Stephenson, who is Jamaican, said she looks forward to authentic ethnic cuisines sold during FAMU’s homecoming because it reminds her of home.

Both Rojas and Stephenson said the Wahnish Way marketplace’s “family” atmosphere adds to the homecoming flavor.

Another difference between the two university’s is the emphasis on the football game.

“FSU’s homecoming is centered around the game,” Stephenson said. “If you don’t want to take part in the game, your options are limited.”

Corey Williams, 20, a junior from Miami, agreed.

“Football is serious at FSU,” said Williams, a criminology student.

Although his participation in his own school’s celebration was “very limited,” he said he was actively involved in FAMU’s.

“It’s a tradition,” he said. “Some of my family are FAMU alumni.”

He said that as a child, he visited Tallahassee to see the Marching 100 and to attend the parade and the game.

He said that as an adult, he still enjoys the weeklong festive atmosphere.

“Tennessee Street is like South Beach on Memorial Day, but on a smaller scale.”

But Hylton said the bumper-to-bumper traffic that FAMU’s homecoming is known for is one of its disadvantages.

“Tallahassee is a small town with small streets. I get frustrated with all the traffic.”

Although Rojas enjoys FAMU’s homecoming she has noticed FSU’s effort to become more diverse during homecoming and to “appeal to a wider audience.”

She said there is more that the University can do to appeal to its minority students, but it is off to a good start.

“It’s good to have both Universities,” Rojas said. “There’s a lot to choose from. I get to enjoy the best of both worlds.”

Contact Andrea Young at famuannews@hotmail.com