By Nadine Etienne

Special to the Irvington Herald 

Irvington High School students stand with teacher and retired 1st Sgt. Harvey Craig, far right, at the Prudential Center during the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic Basketball Tournament.

A sea of teenagers flooded Newark’s Prudential Center on Feb. 3 for the annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU ) Invesco QQQ Legacy Classic Basketball Tournament.

Odo Achievement Center received vouchers from the Urban League of Essex & Union County to have teens attend the game. The Odo Achievement Center offers workshop sessions and discussions on life skills including personal responsibility, self improvement, relationships and getting ready for college. Sessions are conducted at the Irvington Public Library.

An Odo member, Irvington High School JROTC teacher, retired Army 1st Sgt.Harvey Craig, and a few of his junior ROTC cadets, enjoyed the game between Grambling State University and Jackson State University. Grambling State won this year’s contest.

Alongside Odo’s group were various youth-based organizations that also brought teens to the game. 

The annual event was created by director, actor and entrepreneur Michael B. Jordan with WME Sports, Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment and Horizon Sports & Experiences. The event featured a double header of HBCU men’s basketball games. In addition to Grambling State and Jackson State, Hampton University played Howard University, beating them in a close game by two points. The games were shown on TNT.

The college cheer squads and legendary band performances gave all the audience members the feeling of being at a home game.

The energy was high with current HBCU students and alumni wearing their school’s clothing. Fraternities and sororities were represented all over the arena with their trademark symbols and colors. The teens and Sgt. Craig had this to say about the event:

“The game made me excited about going to college, I can’t wait to be a part of school activities,” Manni said.

“It was a nice first-time experience visiting the Prudential Center and seeing a big-time college basketball game,” Ricardo said.

“My first time attending a basketball game, I got to see Michael B. Jordan, spent a Saturday with my friends, and those college game memories will stay with me for the rest of my life,” Carlos said.

“I was excited. It was my first time seeing a college basketball game in which I won trinkets from the U.S. Army, and I got a T-shirt,” Samy said.

“I really enjoyed my time at my first HBCU basketball game, I would definitely like to go to more games,” Ronaldson said.

“I greatly enjoyed my experience of a lifetime,” Rhamses said.

Craig said he was happy the students got a chance to see the game.

“I am grateful for the partnership with Odo Achievement Center and thankful for the opportunity to allow our cadets to enjoy Black Excellence through basketball, academics and the camaraderie displayed at the Prudential Center,” Craig said.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported in July 2022 that the largest race origin in Irvington is Black or African American at 82% of the population. With this in mind, HBCU institutions enroll almost one tenth of Black college students, opening the doors to this population since 1874, according to 

In 2022, roughly 343,700 students were enrolled in HBCUs across the United States.

The average total cost of attending an HBCU in 2022-2023 ranged from $26,791 to $30,624.

More than 85% of undergraduate HBCU students were awarded federal, state, local, or institutional grant aid in 2022, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

The event is a product of Michael B. Jordan’s desire to give back to his community of Newark where he attended Arts High School. 

In an interview for, Jordan said that he wanted to foster the idea of returning home after having gained experience in the world and then sharing learned information and access to the next generation to fuel their goals.