(JACKSON, Miss.) — As Team LeBron and Team Durant created magic on the court during the recent NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta, a Jackson State University biomedical engineering student and former Miss JSU mingled virtually with peers throughout the country as HBCUs took center stage to tout their institutions while watching the game.
Millions of viewers watched as the league celebrated them as well as the legacy, prominence and viability of HBCUs. Some college participants even were fortunate enough to chat with some of the players such as Lebron James and Steph Curry.
JSU’s All-Star ambassadors were Hezekiah Williams, a senior in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology and Naysa Lynch, a Virgin Island native and 2020 business marketing major who formerly served as Miss JSU.
Williams, a native of Edwards, Mississippi, is involved in the SGA, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Harvey-Du Bois Honors College and other scholars programs and organizations.
Lynch and Williams were selected by Student Affairs to represent JSU during the nationally televised game that was expected to generate at least $3 million for the Thurgood Marshall College Fund and the United Negro College Fund.
Scottie Willis Jr. is coordinator of Student Leadership in Student Affairs. After receiving the invitation from the NBA, he said he knew JSU had to participate in the virtual event.
“I felt it was an amazing opportunity for our students but also a much-needed spotlight on our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. In my opinion, more major platforms should take notes from the NBA. Letting people, especially potential students, know about these cultural oases that we call HBCUs – and the extraordinary change agents they continue to produce – is so important to the perpetuation of these institutions. I hope other entities take note and recognize all that our HBCUs contribute on a national and global scale.”
Meanwhile, as they chopped it up with people from various colleges and universities, Lynch and Williams joined their HBCU counterparts who shared information about their individual campuses. Some of their peers even offered compassionate words of support to JSU in light of the recent winter storm that left many students, and city residents, in the Mississippi capital without water and power for an extended period.
“My experience was fun. I got to talk to other HBCU students, and we all were given a special VIP section, which included music that was played in the arena. We were displayed on the screen briefly. It was a really hyped atmosphere,” said Williams, who switched between virtual rooms that were randomly selected.
While promoting JSU as one of the top academic institutions, Lynch said her face suddenly popped up” on the main screen, too. “I was wearing my Jackson State hoodie when they called out, ‘Hey, Jackson State.’ Just hearing Jackson State University called on national television during the game was like really crazy. I was super happy to be able to represent.”
She also expressed excitement about seeing other HBCUs in her virtual rooms. They shared information about where they were from and their school affiliations. “The entire experience was super cool,” said Lynch, who lamented that she didn’t get to chat with players in her virtual room like some of the other HBCU participants got to experience with James and Curry on the West squad and Durant on the East team.
Moreover, Lynch said one questioner in her room asked about her JSU experience and, unsurprisingly, whether she knows Deion Sanders (Coach Prime). The individual also sought her opinion of the football season under the high-profiled new coach. Nevertheless, based on several interactions, she said it was clear that her peers valued JSU as a leader in many areas.
At the end of the game, Lynch and Williams celebrated even more after Team LeBron was victorious against Team Durant, 170-150.