History of ASBC HBCU College Festival
Where did it all begin?
Sometime during the 1960’s, under the leadership of Rev. John O. Peterson, HBCU Sunday evolved. HBCU Sunday was an annual event held on the third Sunday of February for the purpose of recognizing a featured Historical Black College. The President of the featured college was invited to speak during the Sunday morning services and the alumni of that particular school would proudly show up for worship in support of their Alma Mata. The added bonus was a sizable donation given to that school as a show of support from the church.
While HBCU Sunday was a wonderful, thoughtful and supportive event, something still seemed missing about it. At least that was the opinion of one certain individual. After much prayer and thought about it, Ms. Vance Davis finally got up the nerve to share her idea of a college festival with Rev. Peterson, but not directly.
Vance first shared her vision of a college festival to be held on the Saturday before HBCU Sunday with her deacon, Robert Bogan. The idea was to make this effort a Discipleship Group 13 project. Quickly realizing that this would be a tremendous project in need of more support, Vance suggested that Discipleship Group 19 join them in this effort. At that point, the vision was shared with Deacon Alton Wallace. Having DG 19 as part of this effort was a natural match primarily because this was the group in which Henry “Mr. Morehouse” Thompson belonged. Moreover, Henry had a good reputation for recruiting young people for college – especially Morehouse. Deacons Bogan and Wallace ran the idea by Rev. Peterson, upon which he asked Vance to submit a written proposal. Having received the blessings of the Senior Pastor, the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College Festival was born in the fall of 2002.
The first HBCU College Festival was held on Saturday, February 15th, 2003. Members of DG 13 & 19 worked enthusiastically as the official planning committee. The main structure of the college festival consisted of college recruiters. The recruiters were assisted by members of Alfred Street who were alumni of the respective schools. It was a key ingredient to have Alfred Street HBCU alums serve as volunteers during the event dressed in their school’s paraphernalia. That was a perfect way to help the young people associate ASBC members with various HBCUs. It was also a great way for alums to display a show of pride in their schools. Out of respect for the HBCUs, paraphernalia from non-HBCUs was strongly discouraged.
Members of Greek organizations were also represented and wore their Greek attire. Their primary purpose was to talk to students about various scholarship opportunities that were available through their organization.Seminars were conducted by members of the church who were identified as subject matter experts. Two individuals who participated in this capacity from the first college festival and for many more were Dr. Georgia Booker and Mr. Elbert Murphy.
Probably the most unforgettable event that occurred during the first HBCU College Festival was the Blizzard of 2003. Despite the weather, approximately 150 attendees showed up and about 17 colleges participated. The committee counted it a success. Rev. Peterson was so pleased that at the end of the day he let Vance know that he expected a repeat the following year. What Vance thought would be a one-time project turned out to become a nationally recognized event for many years to come.
Vance went on to serve as Chairperson of the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College Festival for ten years. Under her leadership, the festival continued to grow at an amazing rate. So much so that towards the end of her tenure the number of attendees had reached to just around 3000. Students and parents from as far away as California and Alaska have attended this annual event. Since 2003, thousands of students have gained admission to various HBCUs and millions of dollars in scholarships have been awarded.
In 2011, the college festival was moved from the church to TC Williams High School in Alexandria, VA because it had outgrown the church facility. This successful growth was largely contributed to the opportunity of on-site admissions and scholarships on the spot. It was also contributed to the fact that this event had become nationally recognized as one of the most well organized and comprehensive HBCU college festivals in the country. It even got the attention and participation of the White House. Perhaps it was the passion of the founder combined with the dedication and hard work of the committee and the volunteers that made this event such a success.
Each college festival planning meetings started with the reading of Proverbs 19:21, which says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails”. The Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU College festival proved to be a blessing to thousands of young people in a mighty way. That blessing continues today.
About the Founder:
When asked why she was so driven to do what she did, the response is (1) “I have always been very passionate about HBCUs”, (2) “It is a way to expose our youth to all that HBCUs have to offer and to chip away at the myth that HBCUs are schools to be marginalized and undervalued”, and (3) “it is a personal expression of gratitude for how blessed she and her son were by their Alfred Street family during her son’s developmental years.”
Vance F. Davis is the youngest of five girls born to Ernell and Leon Davis. This Suffolk, VA native grew up in East End Baptist Church and in a home that stressed the importance of a college education. Even though neither of her parents went to college, going to college was an expectation and not an option. And going to an HBCU was never a question. Vance is a graduate of Norfolk State University with a B.S. degree in Business/Marketing. She is the mother of one son, Vann Davis, who received his B.S. degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, LA in Civil Engineering.
Ms. Davis believes that all of our youth deserve an opportunity to go to college. She also believes that their chance of having a most successful college career is by attending an HBCU.