Although homecoming has all the intentions of being a safe space for enjoyment, incidents of fights, shootings and even death have become far too common. As a student, it's important that you're using your best judgment when navigating through homecoming activities. To help you out, here are some tips to ensure that you survive your first HBCU homecoming and have a great time doing so:

1. The Buddy System 

The buddy system is where two or more people agree to operate as a single unit/group for a particular purpose or cause. Simply put, it's making sure that you're not attempting to do the events of homecoming alone. Make sure that you find a group of trustworthy, loyal friends who will watch your back as much as you will need to watch theirs. Set the rules of what you're all willing and not willing to allow to happen. Once these rules are set and agreed upon, it becomes your duty to ensure that everyone sticks to them. There's strength in numbers and this is a way to safely enjoy all the festivities that homecoming will provide.

2. Plan it out

There's nothing better than to have a plan of who, what, where, when and how you will be doing all of the events that the weekend has to offer. Have a discussion with your group of friends prior to homecoming and decide on all the events you'll be attending. Make sure everyone will meet at a predetermined location at a set time to ensure that everyone's accounted for. If someone's missing, be sure not to leave until that person is located and accounted for. For added insurance, send your parents or another trusted friend a list of the times of the events that you plan to attend.  

3. Drink Responsibly

If you're under the age of 21, you shouldn't be drinking by any means, period. But let’s face it, it's homecoming and the coolers and red cups will be ever-flowing throughout. If you plan on drinking, please do so responsibly. Know your limit. Never be intimidated into drinking more than you typically would because of peer pressure. If you are going to drink, make sure that you do so around people that you trust. To reduce your alcohol intake, use juices, tonics, water and lots of ice to dilute the potency of your drink. These tips will help increase the odds that if you do go past your limit, someone will be there to take care of you and make sure that you get to your destination safely. There's nothing worse than being the person that everyone talks about in the café on Monday morning.

4. Driving

If you plan on drinking during homecoming then you should also plan on not driving. If you're in an area that has Uber service, make sure that your whole group has the app downloaded before the festivities begin. Uber is a car service that will pick you up and get you to your destination (for a fee of course.) There are also new services like Lyft and Sidecar that can be used as options. If these apps aren't an option, have the number to at least two cab services in your area saved in your phone. If you're planning on leaving the party before your group, make sure someone stays with you until the cab arrives so you can leave the party safely.

5. Know your Surroundings

This is the most important tip. During homecoming, there will be alumni parties, official parties and unofficial parties. Regardless of where you decide to go, make sure you know your surroundings. If you're thinking of going to a party in an uncommon area, ask an upperclassman about it. Google the neighborhood of the venue to see what type of crime or events have happened there recently. If you arrive somewhere and get a bad feeling about it, trust your instincts. There will be plenty to do on the party scene, so there's no need to put yourself in harm’s way unnecessarily.  

Following these tips will help to ensure that you have a safe, eventful first homecoming. These tips can also be used if you're not a freshman. With all that said, the most important tip to remember is to enjoy yourself.  

Happy homecoming!

George M. Johnson is a freelancer located in the Washington, D.C. area.  He has written on culture, sex, gender, race and health for Ebony.com, Pride.com, Musedmagonline.com, Blavity.com, Rolereboot.org and Diverseeducation.com. Follow him on Twitter @iamgmjohnson.



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