After three years of Federación de Estudiantes Cubanos (FEC) dominance in the annual Homecoming competition, United Black Students (UBS) is the latest champion to emerge victorious, winning Homecoming for the first time in their history.
The results were announced at halftime during Saturday’s home football game against the University of Pittsburgh with FEC securing second place and Association of Commuter Students (ACS) finishing third. Also announced was the Council of International Students and Organizations (COISO) awarded the “most spirited” organization.
The road to first place has historically been tight between UBS and FEC, but the black student organization finally managed to dethrone their fierce competitors by taking first place in Alma Mater, Organized Cheer, and the King and Queen Pageant.
UBS President Beja Turner has been with the organization since her freshman year and that Homecoming experience helped mold UBS to create history.
“This year, I honestly just think we had a really dedicated team of people committed to making Homecoming great,” Turner said. “I’ve wanted to experience this with my organization since my freshman year so it is amazing that in my last Homecoming I can finally see the dream achieved.”
Turner contributed to nearly every Homecoming event for UBS, helping them secure early points during the Homecoming Pageant contest, where her powerful spoken-word piece crowned her Queen.
Braylond Rayvon Howard, one of two vice-presidents of UBS, said that Turner winning was not only great for UBS’ chance in Homecoming but it also created history in the university, as she was the first black female to win the Pageant.
According to Howard, in the 70s UBS had their own program for Homecoming called “Black UM” because black students could not participate in the Homecoming Pageant.
“To be a black female winning Homecoming Queen, it’s a really big notion,” Howard said. “Homecoming King and Queen helped us in the race. Usually in past years we had someone who could run for King, not for Queen, and just winning both had to be a big turning point for UBS.”
For other competing student organizations, they pointed to UBS Alma Mater as the event that sealed their victory, where one student from FEC called it a “masterpiece” and another student from ACS calling it “the most beautiful thing I ever heard.”
Their piece had renditions of “XO” from Beyoncé, “Broccoli” from D.R.A.M. and “Purple Rain” by Prince.
“UBS Alma Mater was amazing, their voices were beautiful and were so excited for them. They were so amazing,” Patricia Colón, vice president of FEC, said. “We love their energy, UBS always brings it every Homecoming and we love the vibe they have. We really love them and are so supportive of them.”
Though FEC saw their three consecutive Homecoming victories in a row unseated by UBS, this could be a minor setback for the Cuban student organization who still came second overall. But Colón said that placing in the top three was not a concern, the end goal was to enjoy the festivities.
“We were just so happy that we did well throughout the entire three years and are just happy being second. We honestly though UBS deserved first place, we were just happy to participate and have fun.” Colón said. “We already figured out that we wouldn’t win and that was fine for us, we wanted to give it our all, and giving our hearts got us second place but we were more happy with seeing our members shine throughout this Homecoming.”
Carlos Rohl, vice president of third place ACS, had similar sentiments, identifying the overall goal of Homecoming was to have fun celebrate traditions.
“We wanted an improvement from last year, which we did as we placed third this year,” Rohl said. “Placing is great, but everyone having fun is more important. Placing comes out of people enjoying themselves, it is just an outcome of a bigger goal.”
The fun was evident in COISO members, notching them the most spirited organization in the eyes of Homecoming organizers, the first time the international student organization placed in any Homecoming overall ranking.
“We were so excited to be most spirited because we haven’t placed in anything in a few years and we have a great group of members and there were so many different ways to show off what COISO was all about, and it really showed through,” COISO President Rick Lin said.
Lin said that despite their small numbers, they would always try to cheer the loudest, bring flags representing students’ different origins and a huge inflatable globe to hype their members up.
“Our main priority was to have fun, the placing came second and as long as we had fun, people felt motivated,” Lin said.
Howard said enjoying Homecoming is always the end goal for UBS, but could not deny that taking first place for the first time was a great feeling.
“It’s always a friendly competition, but it is finally good to come out with a win. We always go back and forth. UBS loves FEC, FEC loves UBS at the end of the day, but in a competition, it’s nice to get that win.”
Turner pointed to and praised FEC for the friendly rivalry they both have that edges each other to perform their full potential.
“I love participating in Homecoming with FEC. Everyone knows that they bring the fire to be great. It is always fun to compete alongside of them,” Turner said. “Even though it is a big competition between us every year, there’s never any hard feelings or bad intentions because we all know that we’re so committed to Homecoming out of our love for the school.”