As a student at North Carolina A&T University, Tia Boyd always enjoyed hosting social events and parties. She particularly enjoyed co-hosting events with students from other historically Black colleges and universities whenever their teams would play each other.
Graduating with a computer science degree in 2002, Boyd moved to Charlotte and joined her local alumni chapter. After being named the social committee chair, she would have the opportunity to create events for her chapter.
Doing what she did as an undergrad, Boyd hosted events with other Charlotte HBCU alumni chapters. After mentioning the idea to a few people, she decided that she wanted to host a bigger event featuring all local HBCUs.
“I just loved the camaraderie. And so I said, ‘Why don’t we do something larger when it’s all of us together?’“ the 41-year old Columbia, S.C., native told QCity Metro in a recent interview.
On Saturday, Boyd and Firm Entertainment Enterprises, a Charlotte-based event planning firm she founded in 2013, will host the Queen City HBCU Cookout, an event to bring exposure to HBCUs and fellowship to local HBCU alumni.
Located at Park Road Park, the event will have food, a live DJ, games like HBCU trivia and Tug-of-War, and vendors of local HBCU alumni chapters representing their respective schools.
Boyd hosted her first Queen City HBCU Cookout in 2019 after seeing an organization called the HBCU Alliance host events with local HBCU alumni chapters, but that organization was never able to gather them all together consistently.
“They weren’t able to have a lot of events. So I spoke to the chair that used to chair the HBCU Alliance from Hampton, and she gave me all the email addresses of the local chapters,” she said.
Boyd began to plan and reached out to the local chapters. On July 27, 2019, the first cookout event was held in the parking lot of the Park Church and featured more than 40 local HBCU alumni chapters. At least 450 people attended .
The following year, in 2020, she had to cancel the event after many schools prohibited their alumni chapters from hosting in-person events due to Covid-19.
While some were disappointed, Boyd said she was fine with the cancelation, as it gave her extra time to prepare for this year’s event.
Boyd said in preparation for this event, she reached out to alumni chapters that participated in 2019, but only 18 agreed to come because of Covid-19 precautions and scheduling conflict caused by football season.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, this year’s cookout will be capped at 250 people, she said — about 200 fewer than the first event.
Boyd said the cookout is more than just a HBCU reunion; it’s an opportunity for kids to gain exposure to the respective schools.
“The youth in Charlotte are able to see what they can be or where they can go,” she said.
The event will also bring a learning experience for adults as Boyd hopes to showcase the “HBCU experience” to visitors who have never attended these schools.
During the festivities, she plans to allow at least one representative from each participating school to take the mic and talk about their alma mater.
Boyd said she hopes the collective effort can educate the community about the importance of HBCUs.
“This is a time for them to see HBCUs in action and get that information here,” she said.
Nikki Davis Green, president of North Carolina Central University Charlotte alumni chapter, agrees.
“HBCUs are such a vital part of our culture and our community, and it’s important that we continue to create and support opportunities like this that highlight that,” she said.
Charlotte Florida A&M chapter president Don Jordan said he believes the cookout can reinforce a positive narrative about HBCUs.
“I think it is critical to show the community that, no matter what our differences are, a group of HBCU grads and supporters can come together for a common cause and do so in a positive setting,” he said
Boyd said attendees will be asked to bring their unused and gently-worn business attire to be donated for students at Julius L. Chambers High School. And proceeds from the event will be divided among the participating chapters to use for scholarship and annual giving, she said.
“We’re building a better presence as a unified group in Charlotte, rather than just little pieces and tidbits all across,” Boyd said.
The Queen City HBCU Cookout will be held from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $25 for adults and $12 for children ages 5 to 10. Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite. Visitors are not allowed to bring grills. Food can be purchased at the event.
In keeping with pandemic protocols, visitors are asked to practice social distancing and wear face coverings, as required under Charlotte’s masking mandate.
Here is a list of participating HBCUs that will be represented at the Saturday event:
- Alabama A&M
- Benedict College
- Central State
- Clark Atlanta
- Fayetteville State
- Florida A&M
- Jackson State University
- Johnson C Smith University
- Morris College
- North Carolina A&T State University
- North Carolina Central
- Prairie View A&M University
- SC State University
- St. Augustines
- Tennessee State University
- Tougaloo College