Johnson C. Smith University; illustration by Erendira Mancias/FMG

There are but two yearly events that matter to Johnson C. Smith University alumni: homecoming and the CIAA weekend. We know, the “real world” ain’t all black, but it DAMN sure feels good to be fully immersed in peak onyx for a weekend (that’s blackness, not the strip club). So as we all hydrate, stretch and save paid time off in preparation, allow me to share what made 100 Beatties Ford Road so special.

Brayboy Madness

Listen, we accepted long ago that football wasn’t our strong suit. But come basketball season, Brayboy Gymnasium—previously ranked by Sports Illustrated as one of the loudest gyms in college basketball (and subsequently ranked by attendees as the hottest … literally)—was THE place to be. There was nothing like taunting the opponents, the band’s timeless renditions of classics from Cameo, Master P, Lil Jon and Jerry Springer commercials. Then there was …

Ty (Tyrone or Ty From Florida/the Band/the Games)

Ty was that dude who hyped the ENTIRE crowd every … single … home game but never quite made it past halftime because security escorted him out for being too extra. Or intoxicated. Usually both.

Tom-Tom Parties

The quintessential “student” promoter’s actual “enrollment” was fuzzy, but Tom-Tom provided legendary parties AND transportation for the under-21 demographic. This often meant the DJ’s “last Smith van” announcement signaled a mad dash rivaling the Running of the Bulls, though. Legend has it, if you visit the Press Box on a Saturday night, you can still spot Tom-Tom in a bright suit.

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Mrs. Queenie

She manned the door to the café, and “You got ya’ cahd” (yes, “cahd”) meant no meal card, no meal. Point blank, period.

Dr. Yancy’s St. John Suits

I’m convinced the good folks at St. John owe her a check, ’cause love or hate her, two things were certain: 1) She could care less, and 2) her suit game stayed winning.

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Two-Way/Chicken King

Though not always the safest, Two-Way/Chicken King provided first-year relief to the weekend meal struggle. Located juuuust past the edge of campus, they were close enough to walk to yet still “live on the edge.” The $5 combo was clutch, but it was unclear if the sanitation grade read 48 percent or 98 percent, because of dirt and grease. Since you were hungry and the café closed at 5 p.m., you were usually willing to roll the dice. Braver souls hiked the additional two blocks to Bojiggity’s.

Do Not Disturb (DND)

How many relationships were ruined by this voicemail feature turned on at the wrong time of night? Wait, overnight visitation was prohibited. Never mind.

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There are so many memories that endeared JCSU to us. We were small in number but large in spirit. We laughed, cried, partied, fought and reconciled, just like family. What’s more, we’d do it again in a New York minute. So (in my Treach voice) if you ain’t never BEEN to the Ford, don’t ever COME to the Ford, cause you might not UNDERSTAND the Ford, so stay the EFF outta the Ford!


Nicki Washington is a 2000 graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, receiving her master’s and Ph.D. in computer science from North Carolina State University in 2002 and 2005, respectively. She is currently an associate professor in the department of computer science at Winthrop University, following 10 years as an associate professor at Howard University. When she is not reclaiming her time, she is researching tools and pedagogy to better expose, engage and prepare black and Latino students for computer science majors and careers and working on her TED Talk on the art of wig snatching. She is also the author of Prepped for Success: What Every Parent Should Know About the College Application Process and Stay Prepped: 10 Steps to Succeeding in College (and Having a Ball Doing It)! A native of Durham, N.C., she can be found on Twitter.