HSPVA Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend a success
HSPVA alumni Chelsea Cymone (Vocal, '10), Tarion (Theatre, '10) and Lenora (Vocal, '09) perform during 'The Happening' Sat., August 6, 2022. Photo by Aswad Walker.

Houston’s Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts’ Black Alumni Network (HSPVA BAN) recently hosted a 50th anniversary homecoming weekend, “Celebrating The Gold Standard” with 3-days of networking, performances and class reunion events with acclaimed alumni Aug 5 – 7. Each event took place at various venues with historical significance to the school’s existence including its original building.

“We were so excited to welcome alumni of The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (Kinder HSPVA) and the public to our 50th Anniversary celebration,” said Denise Ward, HSPVA alumna and president of HSPVA BAN. “The legacy of HSPVA would not be possible without recognizing the achievements and perseverance of our notable alumni in various creative and influential industries from the arts to community activism.”

Jonathan Jackson, a BAN officer and father of an HSPVA alumni, also viewed the weekend as a success.

“The BAN weekend was a chance for HSPVA Black alumni to celebrate their shared history matriculating at one of the premier high schools for the performing and visual arts in the U.S.,” said Jackson. “Graduates work in all areas of life: educators, attorneys, executives, judges and many still are working creatives around the world. I heard that about 30% of the school’s graduates have careers in their art areas, and the overwhelming number of them are Black. HSPVA alums have performed on every continent except Antarctica.”  

The Black Alumni Network’s curated homecoming weekend of events celebrated HSPVA traditions while highlighting contributions by Black alumni to the school’s legacy. The weekend also provided opportunities to support current and future HSPVA students.

Speaking to the issue of current and future HSPVA students, Jackson said, “BAN’s mission is to further develop working relationships between alums, increase the endowment for scholarships, and develop a pathway to train young creatives to be better prepared to audition at HSPVA as well as any other institutions. HISD is about 90% Black & Hispanic.  Although it is an audition-based school, BAN believes there should be a larger number of Black students enrolled statistically.”

The weekend kicked off Friday, August 5 with “Off The Record | Welcome Cocktail Mixer” featuring Grammy Award-winning DJ and HSPVA alum Bryan-Michael Cox at the DeLuxe Theatre. Saturday’s events included “What I Wish I Knew (LIVE): An Edutainment Series” at the Heinen Theatre, the original HSPVA campus.

Saturday evening found weekend participants enjoying “The Happening: Alumni All-Stars.” This star-studded “talent show” took place at Kinder HSPVA’s current Downtown Houston location.

The festivities concluded on Sunday with the “HSPVA Family Reunion” at Axelrad in Third Ward. However, BAN is by no means finished in their work to support current and future Black HSPVA students.

“One future project is to develop a training academy for young creatives. Also, there are at least 30 alums each currently working in NY and LA. BAN plans to have events in each city to show them how we roll,” shared Jackson.

Ward, Jackson and other BAN weekend organizers received immediate feedback that their efforts to organize their inaugural Black Alumni homecoming event was a huge success, lending added credence to the power of the idea to gather alumni from across the globe to return home and create new ways to impact HSPVA students following in their footsteps.

“Some cooks just use salt and pepper to make a meal. But some use extra seasoning in their food. That’s not saying its anything wrong with salt and pepper. But some just like extra flavor. The Black Alumni Network just uses extra flavor,” added Jackson.

The idea for the weekend began via conversations Ward had with other HSPVA Black alumni about the need to celebrate the ties that bind them together, while also making sure the doors of HSPVA and experiences at the school are more open and supportive of Black students.

“This weekend was our chance to honor the legacy of HSPVA Black excellence, while paving the way forward for the next generation of HSPVA students. It was truly a much-needed breath of fresh air for myself and our community to be surrounded by so much talent and love,” said Ward.

HSPVA Black Alumni Homecoming Weekend a success