On Sept. 17 around 10:30 p.m., my life changed. Not just my life, but also the lives of others: those who surrounded me at the Lyceum and those who carried me off the steps as I hysterically cried my eyes out knowing that God and my grandmother had sent something special down from the sky. I, a big black kid from the Mississippi Delta, made history. So, what did this mean for Ole Miss?
At the annual Alumni Association meeting, Student Alumni Council President Dugan Walker said in his welcome remarks that homecoming isn’t special at Ole Miss because “it’s like every other week.” He said that this place is already home, so homecoming is just “another game in the vault, another day in the Grove.” I sincerely agree. Ole Miss will have a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. I’ve had the chance to find myself in the midst of the Trash Can Friday spirit. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every student who looks like me. I cannot tell you how it felt to hear black students say things like, “You made my homecoming one to remember,” and alumni say things like, “Thank you for getting me interested in homecoming again.” I cannot tell you how it felt because I don’t know how to feel. It makes me question where the attention was in previous years.
Homecoming week was different this year. Amid the addition of the zipline and the fact that we have a union to centralize things, I saw more minority students engaging in the homecoming activities. The credit, however, does not go to me; I was just a small factor in this process. The credit does go to the Student Activities Association, the Black Student Union and the Ole Miss Sigmas (Eta Beta Chapter). The collaboration from these organizations offered this campus the opportunity to connect in ways not performed before — not because people didn’t want to, but because people did not know how.
Whether it was through Silent Disco in the Grove, Wild’N’Out in the Union Ballroom or a mashup between the Homecoming Meet and Greet and the famous Union Unplugged featuring NPHC organizations and the BSU, multiple student populations were represented and multiple cultures were appreciated, not just one. That was all that I could have asked for. That was the entire mission of the #CrownCarl campaign.
As we continue to move forward as a university, I urge us to continue collaboration during celebratory weeks like this. The celebration of our community cannot solely lie in the hands of one organization, and that organization being SAA. We must continue to foster these relationships past this pivotal point in history. The only way programming can work on this campus is through cohesiveness. I saw something magical this past week — something that made my heart smile and my many sleepless nights all worth it. Everyone should feel at HOME, and not just during homecoming.
Carl Tart is the first University of Mississippi homecoming king.