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I imagine it to sit atop the highest of all of the Hills in Heaven; after all, the good book tells me that I must lift mine eyes to the Hills from which cometh my help. Orange and green flags adorn its kingdom, those pulling up to the entrance knowing exactly what they signify: Homecoming is upon us.
If I stood at the bottom of the Hill and wandered the streets of Heaven, what would I see? Black Angels roaming freely; some sit anxiously in classrooms led by Black Geniuses of the Most Supreme Intelligence. The pursuit of knowledge is stronger than ever. Yes, because even in Heaven, mediocrity as a standard is simply unacceptable.
If I walked the streets of Heaven during Homecoming, I would see a place- statuesque in nature – where the most committed of us sculpt our bodies to exquisiteness in a building bearing the name of one of God’s most faithful servants: Hansel E. Tookes
I would be enthralled to walk down the streets paved of gold, mesmerized by the flexing of complexions, captivated by the development of the relevant evidence of sweet melanin! it would look like a scene from a painting….Black descendants of God and Her children, all having a grand ole time!
As I walk the streets of Heaven, I cannot help but feel the presence of Maya. And Betty, and Zora Neale; their fiery essence embedded in every breeze.
I walk the streets of Heaven and I am surprised that there are no mansions, but rather community villages that carry the names of Phyllis Wheatley and Sojourner Truth. Love, peace, & Blackness is all over this place! We sit around the table, enjoying milk & honey, laughing and enjoying each others company. We listen to great men and women tell stories of their time on earth.
We laugh as one gentleman recalls his time as the leader of a Black college in the south, and there were no streets, only dirt paved roads. One day, a wealthy white philanthropist came to campus during a down poor – flooding the streets. The gentleman told us that he directed two of his students to carry the man out of his car, through the mud, up the stairs, and into his building. The man was so humbled, he paid for paved roads throughout campus, In that moment, We are reminded yet again that even in our lowest moments, we are kept!
We listen with intense curiosity as another gentleman tells us of how he was the grandson of a Sierra Leonean Princess and co-founder of a college for Negro boys and girls. We are enchanted at the story of how one woman turned a bag of sand and chicken wire into a tennis court that would go on to become The House
Althea Built; She being the preeminent pioneer that gave birth to the dream of Venus and Serena.
We listen in awe as one gentleman explains that his earthly name is on the building that has seen the likes of Shirley Chisholm and Benjamin E. Mays. We marvel in the presence of Patricia Due and Wilhelmina Jakes and their determination to not be moved. We are swept up by the words of a former General who made it abundantly clear that any man who spoke ill against us, his hand would forget its cunning and his tongue would cling to the roof of his mouth! We laugh and tell the stories of how we overcame; humbled at the journey, but thankful for the experience.
We give thanks for the courage of one man whose Ivy League education ascended him to the top of a Black college, but skin tone forced him to walk through the backdoor of the state legislature. We revere in the name of John Polkinghorne, our very own orange and green Tuskegee airman.
And then we head to the football game!
Eddie Robinson on one side, and Jake Gaither, the Godfather of Football, on the other.
Every seat is filled, waiting to get a glimpse at some of our most treasured athletes.
Gaither and his boys do what they came to do in all of their agile, mobile, and hostile glory.
Gaither does in Heaven what He did on earth, disrespectfully dismantling whoever was unlucky enough to call him an opponent on that day. Yes, because even in Heaven, anybody can get it.
We groove to Say La La and Order My Steps and do what we wanna as the maestro himself, Dr. William P. Foster instruct the baddest band in all the land, and the Heavens, too for that matter, to rain down the melodies of Heaven.
We stroll past the track and field where a man with the nickname of “Bullet” made runners wish they had run their mouths, the numbers, or a bath instead of attempting to run a race against him.
Heaven would be bustling with Black ingenuity. The greatest Black business minds who once called earth home, now reside in the hills of Heaven. I am welcomed to the table by a woman whose legacy is so legendary, that the mention of her name brought praise and admiration from all who could hear her name spoken. The people here call her “The Brick Layer,” because of her commitment to the rebuilding, redistricting, reclaiming, and re-dedication of Black Wall Street, Black wealth and Black (Economic) Power one Black mind at a time. Her mere presence is a reminder that no excuse was acceptable nor were there any amount of effort adequate until proven effective. She expected the most from us even in that very moment. Yes, because even in Heaven, the hustle is real and the pursuit of Black Excellence is merciless.
The gospel concert would be a sight to behold! The house would be packed, every seat filled with one anticipating body after another. The honeyed harmonious sounds of Albertina Walker, Marian Anderson and Inez Andrews filling the air! The great concert Hall of Heaven would bear the name of yet another one of God’s faithful. A stage so sacred, and so special, that it would see the likes of W.E.B DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Betty Shabazz, Stokely Carmichael, Count Bassie and even Sir Duke Ellington himself. What a time, what a time, what a time! God is quite literally in this place!
We gather in Gaither Gymnasium: where the vestibule is filled with the trophies, plaques, and awards, of the Biggest, Baddest, and Blackest. The Homecoming Concert, hosted by Gil Scott Heron won’t be televised but is SOUL-ed out. Then, Black Moses – Isaac Hayes – initiates the groove, his music making the people groove, because that’s what they came to do, groove. He is one bad (shut your mouth!) David Ruffin remind us that he ain’t too proud to beg. The Godfather of Soul in all of his Blessed Blackness, urging us to give up the food for funk, reminding the room to have a funky good time and do it ‘til death, even in the afterlife. We say it loud! Yes, because even in Heaven, we are Black and Proud! And then, at the direct request of Black Jesus Himself, The High Priestess of Soul Nina Simone remind us as only she can that being Young, Gifted, and Black is sho nuff where it’s at!
If Heaven had a Homecoming, I would image its children would be on the lawn in front of the brightest burning flame in all of the universe – a light given a divine order from The Most High to burn for all of eternity. The love of family and a family of love embrace me from every corner of this Kingdom. I feel at peace, but mostly, I feel at home…almost as if I have been to this place before; I look out and see faces that I know and recognize; Shundavian Brooks, George E. Cooper, Julius Johnson-Rich, Scott Menard, Arnold Bell, Ellen Warner, Rose Glee, Shannon Washington, Robert Champion, Jonathan Ferrell, Nefertiti Williams, Rasheed Lasaki, James Hawkins, Steven P. Stevens, Antoinette Humphries, Willie Galmore, Jubee Bragg, Lua Bartley, James Eaton, Nanny McGuinn, C.U. Smith, Nelson Townsend, Theodore Hemmingway, Kenneth Gray, Linda Knight, Kristopher Gibson, Colonel Paddyfote, Thomas Tucker, Nathan Young, Robert E. Lee, William Grey, George Gore, Benjamin L. Perry, William Howard, and Moise Joseph.
If this place and these feelings are familiar, that is because they are.
When you get to the pearly gates,
The words I have written are true,
If Heaven had a Homecoming,
It would look like FAMU.
Every single person mentioned above with the exception of Venus and Serena Williams have walked the hills of FAMU. Nina Simone, Duke Ellington, W.E.B. DuBois, etc…have all been to FAMU.