The HBCU Culture Fest is about highlighting the vibrant and culturally empowering environment of Historically Black College and Universities. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

The festival brings the HBCU experience with a pep rally and acts as a reunion for local HBCU alums.  

On Friday, Sept. 15, Obama Boulevard lit up with drums, shouts and fanfare as North Carolina Central University’s (NCCU) Sound Machine Marching Band made their way to the Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex.

Preceding the Sound Machine Marching Band was a car carrying Los Angeles City Councilwoman Heather Hutt (Council District 10) and renowned actress, comedian, game show host and NCCU alum, Kim Coles.

“It’s a big deal that they’re here and it’s a big deal that I get to be here,” said Coles. “This city that has become my home for the last 30+ years, that I get to be here to be part of the welcome party.”

Actress Kim Coles and L.A. City Councilwoman Heather Hutt lead the NCCU Sound Machine Marching Band. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

The party in question is the 2nd annual HBCU Culture Fest brought to Los Angeles by a collaboration between the HBCU Curate and Hutt. The pep rally served as a precursor to the NCCU vs. UCLA football game that took place at the Rose Bowl on Saturday, September 16. Sadly, the NCCU Eagles didn’t win, but their marching band was victorious in showing their university’s school spirit on Friday.

The HBCU Culture Fest is about highlighting the vibrant and culturally empowering environment of Historically Black College and Universities. Founders of HBCU Curate, Michelle “Mimi” Sanders and Lee Vanda, created the event to showcase the outstanding legacy and culture of HBCUs.

“This is the second year we have brought the culture to Los Angeles,” said Sanders. “We’re dealing with a little bit of a culture drought here as it relates to HBCUs, so we’re happy to able to bring the culture out here.”

Proud HBCU Greek ladies pose for a picture at 2nd annual HBCU Culture Fest. (Brian W. Carter/L.A. Sentinel)

“So, last year, [HBCU] Curate came to us and said ‘Hey, Alabama is going to play against UCLA, we would love to have a pep rally the day before,’” said Hutt.

“And this beautiful facility was finished [Michelle and Barack Obama Sports Complex], I talked to my team, and they were like, let’s talk to [Recreation] and Parks [Department] and get it done and so, that was our first experience.

“So, Curate came back again and they were like ‘hey, UCLA is playing a HBCU, let’s do it again.’”

From left are Actress Kim Coles, North Carolina Central University Chancellor Dr. Johnson O. Akinleye and Councilwoman Heather Hutt. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

Alumni from various historically Black universities and colleges from across the country, along with several esteemed members of the National Panhellenic Council (CPHC) were present at this year’s Culture Fest. Coles is an alum of NCCU and she enjoyed every minute of the festivities.

“It feels like home to watch these beautiful, young Black Eagles and Eaglettes come and share their excellence and share their excitement for the game tomorrow,” said Coles. She shared a little bit about how having an HBCU experience shaped her life and how she would like for Black youth to have this experience.

“What having an HBCU experience did for me was immerse me fully in the Black academic experience — there’s nothing like it,” said Coles.

North Carolina Central University’s Sound Machine Marching Band pose with their new merchandise. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

She continued, “To go to school with people who look like you, to be taught by professors and instructors who look like your aunties and uncles, to be fully immersed in the culture — it’s a part of who I am now and forever more.

“It’s a unique experience I wish that every young, African American kid could have, if only, for one semester.

“It’s incredible.”

“We are intentionally curating to expose the community as well as the students to a wider view of what it looks like to be able to attain higher education,” said Sanders.

HBCU Culture Fest was a free event, open to the public. Attendees were treated to food, drink and refreshments offered by a fleet of food trucks. The Culture Fest also offered a variety of merchandise, HBCU information and a 360-camera booth.

“There was a college fair earlier in the day with 8 LAUSD schools turning out for the event,” said Hutt. “Many children got verbal acceptance into college.”

Hutt continued, “We want to continue it, as long as I’m here. We want to get children the opportunity and also another experience.  Because we’re on the West Coast, we don’t know about HBCUs.

“So, let’s bring them in.”

For more information about HBCU Culture Fest, visit the Council District 10 website at