The second annual Angel City Classic has come and gone but the impact of bringing the culture of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities to Los Angeles is still here.
Prairie View A&M (2-0) defeated North Carolina A&T (0-2) 22-7 on Sept. 8 with a strong defensive effort that included three blocked punts - two of which returned for touchdowns by defensive end Val Ford - and a safety.
Thousands of fans came out to see the teams play at the Coliseum, but the game was almost secondary to the crowd taking in a full dose of a Black college football game.
For a city and a coast that historically has limited experience with the Black College lifestyle, the high turnout indicates that two years in, the community has continued to embrace it with open arms and is anxiously awaiting the next Classic.
“We are beginning to touch the community in a positive way and [the sponsors] are beginning to realize that bringing that Black College cultural experience to this market is a wonderful thing,” said John Fleming, chief executive officer of Black Educational Events.
Fleming, who called the crowd “wholesome from three to 83,” said that the response has been so great that Farmers Insurance, one of the game’s sponsors, wants to start planning for next year’s game as soon as possible.
“This is a very focused way of extending their diversity effort and when you put (this many) minorities in one place, it’s one of the largest crowd on the West Coast,” he said.
Clem Daniels, who graduated from Prairie View in 1959 and went to play in the NFL, said that it was an “excellent environment” and was especially pleased that the crowd got to see young Black men who conducted themselves in a professional manner.
“With a lot of the young people, we’ve seen a lot of breakdowns in cultural discipline, but at historically Black institutions that’s being maintained and you can see it in terms of the representation of our young people,” Daniels said.
He added that it was also helpful that the crowd got to see the interaction between current students and the alumni, as it demonstrates the strong sense of community built up at these institutions.
For the kids on the field, Fleming said, it was inspiring to not just play on the same field as the No. 1-ranked USC Trojans, but to look in the stands and see thousands of people who looked like them.
The highlight of the game was the halftime show and both bands did not disappoint as they delivered what Fleming called “one of the best halftime performances I’ve seen of any college in the land.”
Daniels agreed, calling the show “fantastic” and added with unashamed bias, “I don’t think that L.A. has seen a band like Prairie View’s band in quite some time.”
It is comments like these that exemplified the pride that alumni of both schools displayed last weekend in the stands.
“This was much more than a game,” Fleming said, “It’s about sending a message to the youth that these institutions exist and they are as relevant today as they were in the past.”
He wanted to directly thank everyone involved, especially the community, “for supporting the Black College experience” and gave the ultimate compliment by saying that the Angel City Classic “showcased our community in its best form.”