Gabby Albert, Tamara Crockett, Amber Spencer and Talibah McIntyre-Handy share a selfie during a FAMU brunch before the Honda Battle of the Bands, put on by their group, The Litty Committee. (Marlon A. Walker/AJC)

For HBCU alumni, Honda Battle of the Bands is an excuse to gather

The annual Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase is the opportunity for the best black college bands to showcase some of the best moves and sounds that highlight college football halftime shows throughout the fall.

The Saturday event also is a chance for the alumni of historically black colleges and universities to celebrate their schools’ traditions and accomplishments, as well as simply giving them a reason to gather.

From pregame events and tailgate parties to off-site, exclusive ticketed brunches and after-parties, the weekend was littered with black college alumni events to coincide with the band showcase. The events often present a touch of “home,” be it a school song, popular sayings repeated throughout or grads of different ages decked out in various paraphernalia. 

More than 200 people attended a tailgate party outside the Mercedes Benz Stadium ahead of the Honda Battle of the Bands. The Hampton University band performed at the event. (Photo Courtesy Carl Abbott)

“Any time there’s going to be an abundance of (graduates) in the city, it ends up being a celebration of sorts,” said Tamara Crockett, an Atlanta resident and Florida A&M University alumna who helped organize a brunch held Saturday at The Beverly, 790 Glenwood Avenue SE in Atlanta.”We’re celebrating the greatness of our university, and HBCUs in general.”

Crockett is part of The Litty Committee, which shut down the black-owned restaurant to hold the four-hour brunch session, which included bottomless mimosas, an omelet station and music by male and female deejays who both were FAMU graduates.

“It’s kind of like a reunion, kind of like homecoming,” said Amber Spencer, also of The Litty Committee, who came from Chicago for the band showcase.

For the 2020 showcase, Benedict College, Florida A&M University, Grambling State University, Hampton University, Jackson State University, North Carolina A&T State University, Prairie View A&M University and Tennessee State University were chosen either through an online pool or by the Honda Battle of the Bands committee.

Tennessee State University marching band performs during the 2020 Honda Battle of the Bands Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium January 25, 2019. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Photo: Steve Schaefer

» PHOTOS: More from this year’s Battle of the Bands

While eight schools were selected for Saturday’s showcase, HBCU alumni donned paraphernalia from many more of the storied institutions. Carl Abbott, president of the National Hampton Alumni Association’s Atlanta chapter, said they welcomed several grads from other HBCUs into their tailgate outside the Mercedes Benz Stadium.

“It’s a family reunion, a homecoming ... without even a football being thrown,” he said. “We just find a reason. To me, this is an extension of the tradition and environment that cultivated us.”

Abbott said more than 200 people prepaid for the Saturday tailgate. More showed up after it began.

“And what better place than Atlanta,” Abbott said, “where black excellence is cultivated.”

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