Azikiwe DeVeaux was just finishing a planning meeting for Morgan State homecoming events when he started getting a barrage of text messages and social media pings alerting him to the news of a shooting at his alma mater.
”Everyone knows I’m in the area,” he said.
Five people, including four students, were injured in the on-campus shooting Tuesday night, police said. It’s the third time homecoming has been marred by gun violence in recent years. A student was shot at Morgan State last October during an unsanctioned homecoming party outside the university’s student center. In October 2021, a student was shot during a campus fight amid homecoming celebrations.
On Wednesday, Morgan State University said in a news release, for the first time in history, the school is postponing or canceling festivities “until the perpetrator(s) of this atrocity have been found and brought to justice.”
The Bears’ football game against Stony Brook University and MSU 39th Annual Homecoming Gala have been postponed, while the concert, parade, pep rally, Silent Headphones Party, Lady Bears volleyball match and all other campus events have been canceled.
DeVeaux is undeterred. His company Events 4 Good People is planning or supporting nine events, which include everything from happy hours to scholarship brunches at establishments throughout the city.
In response to the shooting, he will join Derrick Chase, one of the organizers of the AfroPreak Lounge at Preakness, to raise money for counseling services for students and staff at Morgan State.
”We can’t allow this unfortunate incident to take our spirit and to take our pride from the greatness of homecoming,” he said. “It’s less of a school activity and more of a family reunion. It’s an opportunity to experience that Wakanda feeling we had years ago.”
Homecoming at a historically black college like Morgan State University is more than a football game. It represents an opportunity to see familiar faces and new ones. The day has traditionally offered the promise of a safe space where Blackness is celebrated and where strangers become immediate family.
The event is a chance for the institution to raise money while showcasing its best and brightest, from famous alumni to current students.
Alumnus Quintin Lathan’s beauty supply store adjacent to the campus, Beauty Plus, was busy the first two days of homecoming week, with students preparing for concerts, coronations, the football game and other celebrations of school spirit. By Wednesday, students were scarcely venturing around campus or over to Northwood Commons, where Lathan’s store is located. And many of his staffers, who are Morgan students, called to take the day off.
He was planning to go cheer and support the football team Saturday and provide the students with whatever they needed. It’s disappointing, Lathan said, but he is “very proud” there are counseling resources in place to help students. He and his wife interact with them on a daily basis, said Lathan, who has two daughters. In many ways, the students are like their kids, too, he said.
The shooting notably took place on a “wellness day” and disturbed the historically Black university during what is considered a sacred and jubilant time for the campus community and alumni.
Senior Madisyn Nicholas said the shooting came at the “worst time ever.”
“It shook everyone,” Nicholas said. “Like, why today?”
Homecoming is typically a financial boon for the university. In 2020 and 2021, alumni giving increased around Morgan State homecoming during the second quarter by 23.7% and 100.4%, respectively, when compared to the first quarter. In 2022, the school saw an increase in alumni giving of about 23% leading up to homecoming weekend.
The annual homecoming gala generated $370,000 in revenue in 2022, which is 28% more than was raised in 2021 and 42% more than was raised in 2020, when it was virtual, according to Dell Jackson, public relations director for Morgan State.
Morgan State alum Karen Miller, a Baltimore-based crisis management consultant and political fundraiser, was not planning to attend this year’s homecoming game. But the shooting made her consider it as “a show of support for my alma mater,” she said.
“The shooting makes me more inclined to attend. Not less,” said Miller, who has a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications, a minor in speech and a master’s in communications management, all from Morgan State.
DeVeaux, who graduated in 1999, said he felt a mix of emotions when he learned the university decided to cancel most of the campus-related events and to postpone the game.
“I’m disappointed at the decision, but I understand because the tailgate is always very crowded.”
DeVeaux said the events he’s hosting would not be affected. He also said the shooting would not warrant additional safety precautions at his events.
“Not to say that it is an impossibility, but it is not a concern with our demographic. We’re 40-plus college graduates. We are not a high-risk population in that regard,” he said. “Fortunately, with the demographics that our events target, we’re not concerned. It does kind of dampen the mood.”