By Damian C. Reynolds
Crystal N. Deas made history when she became the University of Georgia’s first African-American homecoming director in 2015. To say she felt pressure is an understatement.
“I definitely think there was more pressure,” Deas recalls. “Especially coming from Black UGA, a lot of my friends, and outsiders looking in.”
Deas said being the first black homecoming director added a different level of stress because she worried that people assumed she would mess up, nor would she “be for the black people” on campus — especially when the time came to pick a performer that everyone would enjoy.
The homecoming committee sent out surveys to the student body and faculty beforehand, asking them what type of entertainment and musical artist they would prefer (which was the main concern). When the committee received the results, genres for musical artists included hip-hop, pop, jazz, and of course country, the number one response based on the surveys.
Safe to assume mostly white students and faculty completed the survey.
Deas said she had to choose between the survey’s results or “what people on Twitter are saying” (translation: what the black students were saying).
“I didn’t know exactly who the artist was going to be until right before students found out, so that was something I couldn’t control,” Deas explained.
Then, the committee announced Brad Paisley would be the artist for homecoming 2015.
“A lot of people looked at me as the director and thought ‘Oh, she had to have picked it,’” Deas said — although the director makes up one of UGA’s entire 13-member homecoming committee.
Deas told me she heard criticisms from black students such as she’s “not for the black people” or that she’s an “Uncle Tom.” She even gave a brief recollection of which critique hurt the most.
“Someone direct messaged me (on Twitter) basically saying ‘How could you not listen to the black students at UGA? We were really counting on you, and you let us down,” Deas exclaimed.
Deas did acknowledge that while the criticisms hurt, not everyone had something negative to say. She finished reflecting on homecoming week by thanking her critics, saying that the negative comments made her stronger.
“I can put on my resume that I went to a predominantly white institution and put on a [really] good homecoming,” Deas stated confidently. “People are gonna always have something to say about you, but I feel like I slayed homecoming.”
She also has a message for her peers who want their voices to be heard.
“A lot of students feel like they don’t have a say, but when we give them the opportunity, no one takes it.”
Deas may be a trivia question in 20 years if the university wants to highlight its first African-American homecoming director. Instead of being celebrated as such by her own people, they were the first ones to ridicule her. That’s disappointing.
I hate country music as much as the next person. I wanted a rap artist to perform for my last homecoming as a college student, but that didn’t happen. Oh well. What did happen is I stayed in my lane because I wasn’t chosen as director or committee member.
There may not be another black homecoming director for decades to come. But in my four years at UGA, I’ve never seen the student body so excited about homecoming week since my freshman year. More importantly, I’m excited that a black director made that happen.
I expected white people wanting her to fail, but I’m disappointed that black people did too.