The African American student population at the University of Oklahoma is barely 5 percent. Not much has changed since I arrived as an eager freshman almost 20 years ago. Earlier this year social media brought attention to racist behavior by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity as members were caught on camera using the N-word during tour bus merriment. This was no surprise to the Black alumni who spent four undergraduate years on the mostly white campus where plantation balls and White students aligned with Al Josen were common. The institution’s president, David Boren, quickly rectified the actions by suspending the students involved and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. I appreciate the politically correct public admonishing. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to erase my memories of being called a n—– on campus or seeing White boys in blackface imitating members of Omega Psi Phi as monkeys complete in gold boots and purple jerseys.
So while my collegiate years were never filled with the traditional trappings of a HBCU homecoming — soulful bands, curvaceous dancers, beautiful queens of color — our student body created our own version of homecoming for black alumni to celebrate and re-connect with each other during the Texas vs. Oklahoma homecoming weekend. The University of Oklahoma is a huge football school, we’re ranked #10 in the country by the AP Top 25 College Football poll. And, depending on the year and tenacity of the OU team, that number often travels upward to single digits. It was always ironic to me that a Sooners game day allowed the entire campus to cheer in unity for our black football players who were cheered on by a mostly white band and cheerleaders.
With such a small black population every year it caused us to bond together even more. The Black Student Association held weekly events and although we went to this school with over 28,000 students we were connected to about 1,000 black students. Not surprisingly, the athletes defied race and could fit in on either side. We bonded, we partied and we thoroughly enjoyed our collegiate experience. The years of OU vs TX weekend allows black alumni to re-experience that camaraderie and perhaps acquire an even greater appreciation for the kinship because we knew that while attending the University of Oklahoma we had to have each others backs. This was paramount because if even one of us fell the gap was noticeable. This weekend the OU Sooners lost to the Texas Longhorns 17-24. Although OU lost, to see the pictures and videos posted by OU black alumni made it clear there were few tears shed over the game. Instead it was another year to catch up with friends, congratulate each other on new jobs, new additions to family and new relationships. It is our version of homecoming.