‘A family reunion’: Thousands attend 32nd Southern Heritage Classic

Published: Sep. 11, 2021 at 8:41 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Family, friends and football are the foundations of the annual Southern Heritage Classic. The cultural celebration of HBCUs was back in Memphis Saturday after being cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020.

At the tailgate ahead of the Jackson State University and Tennessee State University game it was a reunion of sorts. Whether you know the person next to you or not it was a feeling of coming home.

“It’s one big family reunion is what it is,” Demetrius Camper, who traveled from Los Angeles for the Southern Heritage Classic said.

“It’s like a great family reunion. Everyone is happy,” Memphis native Alicia Albright said.

Like any family you don’t always agree. The fighting point Saturday was who was going to win the Southern Heritage Classic Football game between TSU and JSU. The stakes even higher as the teams premier two all-star coaches. Coach Deion Sanders for JSU and Coach Eddie George at TSU.

“Jackson State is going to win,” Fan Denequa Perryman said.

“TSU,” Albright cheered to Action News 5 cameras.

While the game is the main event, or the tailgating depending on who you ask, The Southern Heritage Classic weekend is full of different activities like Saturday’s classic battle of the bands.

Four regional high school bands competed at Whitehaven High School.

“It’s a high school event to promote our performances of the youth from the high schools,” Whitehaven High School Band Director Kellen Christian said. “It’s very important our students have the opportunity and an avenue to promote the skill set they have.”

The Southern Heritage Classic weekend is a big boost to the Memphis economy. Nearly half of all the attendees are not from the Memphis area.

“Where we live we don’t have this,” Darrell Ramsey of Los Angeles said.

Ramsey, Camper and their group of friends come to Memphis from Los Angeles every year for the Southern Heritage Classic. They said it wouldn’t be the same anywhere else but Memphis.

“You get that Southern hospitality,” Camper said. “People are eating good food, having drinks here and there, the kids are running around.”

It seems after seeing the event get cancelled last year, the Southern Heritage Classic family picked up right where they left off.

“It means a lot. It’s just a tradition, we come every year,” Perryman said.

“You have to come back right here to get that home cooking and southern hospitality,” Camper said.

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