Hundreds of spectators lined the streets Saturday around Jackson State University for its 2018 Homecoming parade led this year by grand marshal Cortez Bryant, a 2004 JSU alum who manages artists such as Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and Jill Scott.
The parade included participants from throughout the country with a range of floats, trailers and decorated vehicles. Area school bands and dance groups shared the route with politicians, kings, princes and student leaders.
The renowned Sonic Boom of the South and the J-Settes were among the special highlights.
Before the parade, Bryant spoke to a television crew about what it means to return to JSU for Homecoming.
“I’m so honored to be the grand marshal. I never would have expected it. When asked I was in shock, in awe. I move so much, and I work so much that I never get the chance to stop and see and take in the things that I’ve done. So, for my alma mater to honor me and ask me to be the grand marshal of the parade, it was one of those special moments that indicated I might have done something good in my life and for my school.”
Bryant also spoke of his special relationship with Lil Wayne. They were best friends in high school in New Orleans. Bryant recounted that Lil Wayne wanted to be a rapper ever since then. However, Bryant said he thought about the music industry but took a different path after being “blessed” to get a scholarship from the Sonic Boom of the South.
“As Lil Wayne was rapping, I still didn’t know that I would go into the music business. I sat out a couple semesters to try it out but came back to school. It just so happened that he called me in my senior year. He said, ‘Yo, Tez, I need someone I trust to be my manager.’ That’s kind of how it happened.”
Also, Bryant said, “As I look back I definitely see how my experiences at JSU set me up to do well in the position I’m in now. The Sonic Boom of the South prepared me the most. It taught me discipline, leadership and gave me a sense of family. … I met people who are very diverse from different cultures. When you’re in the music industry it’s key to understand people – especially as a manager.”
In addition, Bryant shared that he played cymbals at JSU and is not shy about boasting that he “revolutionized” the art of that instrument during his time at the HBCU.
“Overall, I love coming to Jackson State University. This is like my second home. Jackson is my escape from the music business. … Homecoming is the best time to come back,” he said.
Other perspectives on the parade:
President William B. Bynum Jr. and wife Deborah also helped lead the parade. Bynum, who was recently installed formally as the 11thpresident during an investiture ceremony, said, “This has been an outstanding week. There’s nothing else like Homecoming 2018 ‘Thee Revolution.’ We’ve been extremely excited because of the inauguration events that culminated along with the homecoming activities. This has been a wonderful week from the start of the coronation Sunday night right through now with the parade. All we need now is a ‘W’ to cap the week off perfectly.”
Mississippi state Rep. Alyce Clarke was a participant in the parade, too. “It’s always exciting at Homecoming because you see so many people you haven’t seen in a while, and you do so many great things. It’s always a blessing. This is also a great time to look forward to the upcoming football game as well.”
JSU provost Lynda Brown-Wright also was part of the parade. She said, “This is a very historic day for me – my first parade at Jackson State University. I’m so excited to be here and be a part of this great institution and Homecoming celebration.”
Madison Perry of Southern California is a freshman majoring in vocal performance. She watched the performance alongside many others: “This is my first Homecoming at JSU. I’m just so excited to see everybody.” While waiting for the parade and performances to start, she praised the Sonic Boom. “The band brings us all together. They’re like our celebrities. I play in the orchestra with some of the band members, and they’re very talented and work very hard.”
Alumnus Terrence Shelley, Class of ’07, is an elementary school teacher in Vicksburg. He also was among throngs of spectators: “My overall experience with homecoming has been unbelievable. The entire experience throughout the week has been phenomenal. This Homecoming is one of the best because I’m seeing many of my classmates and many new faces. For anybody choosing to go to an HBCU, choose JSU because there is a lot to do here that will prepare you for your future.”