HU Homecoming: Big Celebs, ‘Big Shoes to Fill’

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Arguably one of the most highly anticipated college-wide events across African-American campuses is Howard University’s Homecoming. The hub for an array of celebrity guest appearances and performances, this homecoming draws crowds from across the nation.
People vie for tickets, which are typically purchased well in advance in order to secure a spot. With an event of this magnitude, it takes comprehensive planning by a focused, militant-minded individual to bring the event to face.

As a graduating senior, marketing major and public relations minor from Sacramento, Calif., Shenise McKnight, was appointed chairwoman of the 2011 Howard University Homecoming Steering Committee entitled “PRESTIGE: The Epitome of Distinction” by the university after a rigorous application process consisting of multiple interviews.

“Being able to be in charge, I felt like I had big shoes to fill and an expectation to meet,” she said. “The pressure was on.”

For McKnight, holding a position on the Homecoming committee was second nature; she served as the 2010 Celebrity Basketball Game Coordinator her junior year. Under her leadership, celebrities from the likes of Maryland rapper Phil Ade, Dreamgirls actor Keith Robinson, and Marion “Pooch” Hall from TV series The Game – to name a few, were present.

Booking industry figures in the past were always tricky, but she said the marketing department she hired this year was a huge help.

“We cultivated relationships with individuals and companies. We were able to have Comcast be an in-kind sponsor along with radio sponsors like WHUR and WKYS,” McKnight added.

Though her newly appointed position demanded more time and effort, her team successfully produced a gospel, fashion, R&B and step show, poetry cipher, International Yardfest, football game and a parade, where Model Boris Kodjoe served as the Grand Marshall.
Planning began January 2011 and subsided October 2011 – Homecoming month. She delegated tasks among a staff of 28 people, 4 departments: treasury, marketing and media, operations and event in order to raise sufficient funds for marketing and event production.
I am a business student and entrepreneur, so I went into it with that mindset,” she said.  “Not all my staff members saw homecoming as a business so that was a battle. I had to be stern yet motivate at the same time.”

This year, rapper’s Future and Big Daddy Kane performed at the International Yardfest. Other artists like Young Geezy, Bridget Kelly and Wale attended. The full length comedy show, hosted by comedian and actor Nephew Tommy, included comedian and radio DJ Joe Clair as headliner, and Youtube sensation Spoken Reasons also performed. The R&B show featured artists Tyrese, Monica, Avant and more.

“It was great to work with all the different types of artist on different levels,” she said. “The entertainers were encouraging of us being students and gave me a lot of advice.”

Other stars like America’s Next Top Model Toccara Jones, and Love & Hop Hip Cast Member Olivia attended the celebrity basketball game where singer Tweet performed the national anthem.

Overall, her most treasured experience was seeing the alumni.

McKnight said, “I really loved the alumni coming back [and] getting people to feel like they are coming back home.”

Despite the all-nighters, McKnight said it was cool to build relationships with celebrity publicists and management. She said they are the people who can help her with her career.

McKnight owns a Public Relations firm called S.M.A.R.T. People Public Relations. After her experience with HU Homecoming, she encourages everyone in event planning to plan for the worst. She said to always have a plan A through G.


Senior > English and Business Administration > Seton Hall University

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