The CIAA basketball tournament is one of the biggest events in all of HBCU sports every year. The historic all-HBCU athletic conference crowns a champion in front of some of the most unique fans in the country.
Yet, the play on the court is far from the only thing that sets this nearly week-long spectacle apart. The CIAA tournament holds a significant place in HBCU culture and there are usually a plethora of events and activities that span every age demographic. That includes famous musicians showcasing their talents at some of the marquee events.
This year will be no different when artists like The Magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff, The Legendary DJ Kool, DJ Kid Capri, Chubb Rock, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, YoYo, Monie Luv Rakim, and Michel’le pull up and show out in Baltimore from Tuesday through Saturday.
While the lineups rock year, the true essence of the CIAA tournament isn’t in the music or basketball — it’s in the camaraderie, tradition and legacy passed down from generation to generation in the HBCU community.
Jumaane Torrence works as the Celebrity Talent Coordinator and Ancillary Event Producer for the CIAA, he books the talent for CIAA events during CIAA tournaments and helps coordinate these events. As a Shaw University graduate whose father and uncle have long ties to the CIAA, he knows exactly what this tournament means to HBCU culture.
“A lot of these folks that come to these events, this is their annual reunion,” said Torrence in an exclusive with NewsOne. “This is a way that a lot of these folks can touch base with the culture in a way that they don’t get to in their normal lives. It keeps this network, this community connected. It keeps it relevant, it keeps it active, and it keeps it progressive.”
According to Torrence, the CIAA tournament is the 3rd highest attended basketball tournament in the NCAA. The ACC and Big Ten are the only other basketball tournaments ahead in attendance. This year the conference is looking to add to its success as it comes to Baltimore for the first time after being a staple in Charlotte for years.
While the location may change, the significance likely won’t. This tourney holds with it the DNA to connectivity between HBCU alumni and the next generation.
“Most of the culture around CIAA is about reconnecting with your former schoolmates, your former teammates, and your friends that you establish in your first step in life as an adult,” said Torrence. “This thing is generational and cultural, the legacies that they get to pass on to their children and the pride that comes with it, I haven’t seen in many other environments.”
The generational connection and advancement of culture that is created from attending these unique and historic institutions are some of the ingredients that allow the CIAA tournament to thrive. Torrence says that without this distinct connection, it would be no different than going to any other school.
The CIAA is looking to continue the traditions of the past while incorporating the new flavor of a different host city. The conference has been able to impact so many in its 110 years of existence and they will be looking to reach even more soon.
Torrence believes the next steps for the CIAA will be to take advantage of the momentum of HBCU sports and continue to spread its impact.
“Maintain the activations and effectiveness of where the universities are physically placed but be able to reach further than that,” said Torrence. “Things are happening in the HBCU sporting world that can allow some growth in the CIAA conference and its impact on the community.”