HBCU homecoming season is in full swing and while the celebrations of these historic institutions take center stage, instances of violence can easily derail the fun and shift the narrative away from what these homecomings truly represent.
This past weekend multiple people were hurt after gunshots rang out at both Clark Atlanta University and Livingstone University during their respective homecomings. The latest reports said that three people were shot at Livingstone and four were shot at Clark Atlanta. Two of the victims were Clark Atlanta students and another victim was an AUC student. Livingstone officials said no students were shot following their incident. However, two Livingstone students were injured attempting to leave the scene.
Officers on the scene in Atlanta told 11Alive that all four people shot were expected to be OK. Police in Salisbury said that a female victim received a graze wound while one man is listed in stable condition and another was also taken to the hospital and treated with injuries.
These events have stirred up many questions and concerns about safety on campuses during large events, especially popular events like homecoming.
“I think we need better campus safety, and we need a gated community,” said Clark Atlanta student CAU student Jameah Alston told FOX 5. “Our community, our school campus is too open to everybody. They allow everybody on campus.”
In a statement responding to the shooting, CAU’s Police Chief Debra Williams said: “Unfortunately, our students must travel public streets in going between buildings on a daily basis. We note that the perpetrators were non-students, yet they have access to these thoroughfares. The safety of our students remains our top priority as we continue to work with the City of Atlanta for solutions to senseless violence impacting innocent students and residents.”
Students at Livingstone were also not happy with the events that took place during their homecoming celebration. Many were aiming their frustrations at the perpetrators.
“We were just trying to have fun,” J’lynn Wilson, a Junior at Livingstone College told WBTV. “When you destroy someone’s experience, your homecoming experience, it kind of messes it up.”
“Tragically, gun violence is a reality in every city and town in America. Unfortunately, a homecoming event for our alumni, students, and friends turned violent when two members of the local community had a verbal altercation that led to shots being fired,” said Livingstone College President Dr. Anthony J. Davis.
The Salisbury Police Department is investigating. No suspects have been arrested at this time. There have also been no arrests reported regarding the shooting at Clark Atlanta.
Incidents like these often unfairly cast a negative light on HBCUs across the country. Oftentimes the only time they receive any attention is when mischief happens on their campus. HBCUs, and HBCUs’ homecomings are about so much more than potential violence. They are about culture, tradition, and camaraderie.
Institutions find themselves in a very tricky situation when it comes to protecting their campuses during large events. They could try to increase security during homecomings but then they may run the risk of over-policing their campus which could also have negative implications. Additionally, local communities play a large role in many HBCU homecomings, and limiting their access to participation on campus could not only be difficult to implement logistically but could also be very costly to these schools that are already underfunded.
“Our priority is and remains to ensure the mental wellness of our students and to evaluate our public safety measures to create a safe, living, learning, and working environment,” said Davis. “I am saddened because our students, alumni, family, and friends were exposed to this senseless act of violence. We are working collaboratively with our local law enforcement agencies as they are conducting a thorough investigation. Please pray for us in the coming days and weeks ahead.”
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