Many of my family members graduated from HBCUs, and I am a very proud Howard alumnus. Tailgate parties are traditional during football games, classic events, and homecoming. They are a great way to gather with friends, family, and other alumni members as fun mini-reunions and celebrate HBCUs’ culture.
If you can’t make it back to your alma mater this year, why not host a tailgate party at home. I have a few HBCU tailgate essentials and tips on how to host a tailgate indoors or outside.
The camaraderie between HBCU alums and the loyalty to their schools is an ongoing thing, but nothing is more festive than the tailgate traditions that are as varied as the classes represented. The tailgate is as important as what happens in those football stadiums. And the foods you’ll be eating at the different college tailgates can vary based on the popular ingredients, flavors, and iconic mainstays of the region. My menu always has Lowcountry-inspired dishes. For this year’s tailgate menu, I invited my dear friends and chefs Rashaunda Grant of The Carolina Cookery and Gina Capers Willis of What’s Gina Cooking to create custom tailgate menu items inspired by their cultural roots and HBCUs.
You can learn more about Gina and her menu here and Rashaunda here.
For me, creating a fun tailgating environment that feels like you are at your alma mater is vital. So, where are you going to host your at-home tailgate? There are so many options to host a tailgate – your porch, car, the yard, a deck, or a driveway. You could even put a canopy tent in your home to recreate that outdoor feel indoors. Here I’m going to show you how to host an HBCU tailgate inside your home, where you can show your HBCU pride rain or shine.
(Visit here for outdoor inspiration!)
Your decorations can be inspired by your alma mater or all HBCUs. Try a coastal country, or Bayou-inspired tailgate. Or make it all about sports.Let this inspiration carry through in your decorations and menu.
I decided on a fall-inspired theme for my tailgate tablescape and bar decor full of rich golds, oranges, and fall greens. As an ode to my coastal style, I have touches of rattan and of coastal-inspired table items. I love encouraging folks to repurpose what they have and find a way to support local and Black-owned businesses. I love visiting antique and thrift stores in Savannah, where Savannah State University is located, and in Orangeburg, SC, where SC State University is, and always incorporating some items from my Alma Mater, Howard University.
My dining table is set with a blue and white gingham tablecloth then layered with a soft textured orange and white fabric that is reminiscent of football. A long wooden serving board provides a centerpiece and the slight elevation makes it easy to see the appetizers. Rattan placemats with indigo tablecloths are a nod to the lowcountry and the large green plates provide a sense of fall and plenty of space to pile on the variety of foods. You’ll often see my tables layered with bowls in various shapes and sizes for dipping sauces, shells, or stems. My favorites are these mini ceramic oyster shells and the red bowls bring in those touches of autumn. Don’t be afraid to mix colors and patterns.
Create a bar cart or bar tray with your favorite libations. Try serving drinks with your color scheme or select HBCU regional or Black-owned brands. Here you’lI see I added HBCU stickers to a clear ice bucket for a fun nod to HBCUs and created cards with fun HBCU traditions, which are great icebreakers and conversation starters for going down memory lane.
A really good HBCU tailgate event is like the front porch hang out or the backyard BBQ or a cocktail party in one big concentrated area, and with a few thousand people you have something in common with. There’s music, dancing, Divine 9 strolling, choir singing, entertainment and there is plenty of food. So it’s easy to reverse that and take that tailgate experience back to the front porch. Make it a family affair with great decorations, lively music, and of course delish food! Keep coming back for more HBCU inspiration throughout the fall including a three-part video series coming October 1 and be sure to check out HBCU Inspiration. I’d love to see how you are celebrating HBCU tailgate season, share your pictures with hashtag #blacksouthernbelle or tag @blacksouthernbelle_bsb