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Angel City Classic draws more than 52,000
If you could describe what the Angel City Classic is, you couldn’t just say that last Saturday was a game between Morehouse College and Prairie View A&M University - you’d have to say that it was all-day community affair that showed the very best of our culture.
Nearly 53,000 attended the third edition of the Classic and for one brief day, the L.A. Memorial Coliseum was the center of the Black community as Los Angeles once again - to quote State Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas - “experience what the best of the South is about.”
The last two years saw the events spread out a two-day period but this year, the entire day was devoted to activities starting with a high school band clinic featuring both marching bands along with USC’s “Spirit of Troy.”
Right before the game, a youth football game entertained the crowd, which led into a high school battle of the bands between Inglewood, Dominguez, Long Beach Jordan and Crenshaw.
Even walking around the stadium before the game, you could see fans of all ages coming together -high school teams wearing their jerseys, members of fraternities and sororities wearing their letters, parents bringing their kids or proud alumni wearing their maroon and white (Morehouse) or purple and gold (Prairie View).
There was an atmosphere of excitement and unity that no matter how many times you witness it, it was uplifting for Black people to come together for a day of fun - a feeling that will repeat in two weeks at the annual “Taste of Soul” on Crenshaw Boulevard.
The game itself was exciting as Prairie View, ranked No. 2 in the Boxtorow.com/Black Athlete Sports Network Top 10 Black College Football Poll, and defeated Morehouse 28-17 in a game much closer than the score indicates. Only a late fumble recovery returned for a Prairie View touchdown kept the score from being under double digits.
While Morehouse took to the air behind sophomore quarterback Christian Sterling (328 passing yards with a touchdown), Prairie View dominated the ground behind junior running back Donald Babers (24 carries, 180 yards and a touchdown), who resembled a former USC Heisman Trophy winner with his elusiveness and breakaway speed.
“I’m a big fan of Reggie Bush and I’m just glad I got the opportunity to play on the same field as him,” Babers said.
Local players that contributed included Morehouse sophomore tailback Sinclair Ridley-Thomas, son of state senator Mark Ridley-Thomas, had one carry for 12 yards while senior teammate and Gardena native Christian Green, who started the game, had seven carries for -18 yards.
The game was by far the most competitive of the three, with Prairie View winning last year 22-7 and Morehouse losing 23-6 to Alcorn State in 2006. Only a late fumble recovery returned for a Prairie View touchdown kept the score from being under double digits.
But it was more than the game itself. It was about the community coming together for a full day of entertainment, a day that ended with a fitting tribute to another pillar in the community - Isaac Hayes.
The pioneering soul/funk artist, who died in August, was honored during the day’s final event, a concert featuring three singers - Lalah Hathaway, Angie Stone and Anthony Hamilton - who mixed in tributes while carrying on his legacy of creating unique, soulful music that lifted the crowd’s spirits.
More than anything, this game was a showcase to bring the Black College experience to the West Coast while exposing Los Angeles youth to the possibility of attending one of the 103 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) that are found all over the South.
“They must never forget these schools exist,” said John Fleming, CEO of Black Educational Events LLC who helped bring the Angel City Classic to L.A. three years ago under its original name the Silver Dollar Classic.
Rapper/actor Nick Cannon, who served as event host and helped re-invigorate interest in HBCU’s with his 2002 film “Drumline,” echoed that message by calling HBCU’s “pillars in our community” that Los Angeles youth need to continue being exposed to.
“Whether it’s the football players or the bands, here is something they can be proud of, something they can strive to be a part of,” Cannon said. “These are institutions of self-worth and they are associated with greatness.”