As North Carolina football prepares to take on the Florida A&M Rattlers in the Saturday football season opener, festivities are taking place to highlight Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The events — held ahead of the HBCU Celebration Game — are a culmination of efforts between athletic departments, campus organizations and town entities from both UNC and Florida A&M.
At the center of the events is HBCU Heroes, an organization founded by two UNC alumni that seeks to empower HBCU students. The organization will host a career fest on Friday in the Great Hall with job and internship opportunities across disciplines.
“Carolina Athletics is thrilled to partner with two great Tar Heels, George Lynch and Tracey Pennywell, to bring the HBCU Heroes career fair to campus,” UNC Senior Associate Athletic Director Rick Steinbacher said. “[They] are passionate about their mission to enhance the lives and opportunities for HBCU students in many ways.”
Lynch, a member of UNC's 1993 men's basketball national championship team, served as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons and assistant athletic director at University of California Irvine.
Pennywell is self-employed as the chief executive officer of Switch Media Inc., a boutique social media marketing agency. She graduated from UNC with a degree in Radio, TV & Motion Pictures.
The career fest will present a wide variety of opportunities for students, with speakers from fields including technology, finance, STEM, sports management and more. HBCU presidents from across North Carolina will speak at the event, as well as Vinnie Brown, a rapper-turned-entrepreneur who will talk about his transition to the tech field.
Students have been selected to serve as panel moderators and HBCU sororities and fraternities will be recognized. All UNC and HBCU students are welcome to attend the event either in person or virtually.
“We don’t want the messaging to be that ‘It’s just for HBCUs’,” Pennywell said. “It’s supposed to be a celebration of everyone coming together and sharing in all of this.”
Along with the festivities leading up to Saturday night's contest, the game itself will include many initiatives to celebrate HBCUs in North Carolina. Florida A&M’s marching band, better known as the Marching "100", will travel to Chapel Hill to perform and accompany the Marching Tar Heels throughout the game.
During the game, there will be several recognitions to showcase those who have made meaningful contributions to UNC as well as Florida A&M and other HBCUs. In addition to highlighting UNC faculty and staff who hold degrees from HBCUs, each team appointed honorary captains to be recognized during the game.
For UNC, Rod Broadway and Bill Hayes will serve as honorary captains. Both Broadway and Hayes made meaningful contributions to N.C. A&T football as coaches in different eras.
Rudy Hubbard will serve as the honorary captain for Florida A&M. After leading their football program to back-to-back Black college football national championships in 1977 and 1978, he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last year.
All these festivities seek to elevate the profile of college football at HBCUs, as well as further blend HBCU culture and community into everyday life.
“With North Carolina being a state school, it shows how the state school systems are working together with HBCUs to bring HBCU community and the Chapel Hill community together for an event like this,” he said. “It says a lot.”
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