By Gordon Jackson
Familywise, they’re man and wife. Professionally, they’re partnering attorneys. On an entrepreneurial level, they’re media executives.
Perhaps in their most shining moments, Daniel “Danny” and Genera “Gigi” Freeman-Morris are most proud of one thing, as passionate longtime patrons, participants and supporters of one of the country’s top annual sporting spectacles.
When it’s all said and done, the Bayou Classic – the world-renowned annual football event that pits the Grambling State Tigers against the Southern University Jaguars inside New Orleans’ Superdome
during Thanksgiving weekend – would just not be the same without the Morrises and their families in the mix.
It makes perfect sense. One family is all Grambling, the other family is all Southern.
What could possibly ever go wrong?
“It’s like a mini-family reunion for us,” said Daniel Morris, the Southernite. “It’s the one (HBCU football classic) that has the pageantry and the most history. It is a show –something where you get to see Black people doing excellent things and making it an excellent event.”
“It’s a large family reunion to me,” said Genara, the Gramblinite. “We’ve gone from Sunday to Sunday and have Thanksgiving at our hotel. Our children have got to go (shopping) to the mall and the French Quarter. We hit all the spots.
“But Gameday is the biggest thing. We go to the parade. We get to enjoy ourselves with no violence. We get to see people we haven’t seen for years.”
This year, the Morrises will make their presence known at the Bayou Classic as co-publishers of NOIRE, the new online publication that scopes the Black and multicultural communities from a cutting-edge perspective, under the mantra, “Our Lives, Our Stories, Our Voices.”
For Daniel, a Cleveland, MS native, the tradition has been ingrained since he was a ripe three months old, courtesy of his father, a Southern University student and graduate from the 1960s. Attending the Bayou Classic remained in Daniel’s blood from his playing right tackle on the Jaguars football team in the mid-1990’s to becoming an assistant coach, then the head strength and condition coach for the football program throughout the 2000s.
“Either I have gone with my parents, played in the game or coached in the game,” he said. “Since then, it’s been a family affair.”
Genara’s indoctrination did not come as early, in spite being a second-generation Grambling State graduate from New Iberia, LA. Even though both of her parents were Gramblinites, they focused more on the arts. Her transformation to sports and football came when she met – and married – Daniel.
Going to the Bayou Classic be- came an immediate family ritual. Genara even said tongue-in-cheek, “If we had signed a pre-nuptial agreement, it would have been in my pre-nup that I had to go every year.”
For the Morrises, the Bayou Classic draws the family masses representing both schools in the annual intense rivalry affair. Daniel and Gigi say that everyone gets along – kind of.
“When we get together, we talk all kinds of mess,” Gigi reflects. “I love to see Danny’s father’s reaction when- ever Southern loses. He has to go gather himself, then he comes back and talks to us.”
“We love each other for 364 days,” said Daniel. “But for a few hours on Saturday, things get tense. It is what it is.”
Yet, in fact, there is a lot of cross- over, where, for example, Grambling players coached at Southern, or vice-versa. After obtaining her bach-lor’s degree at Grambling, Gigi went on to get her law degree at Southern. She considers herself a “Tiguar,” with an allegiance to both the GSU Tigers and SU Jaguars.
Danny and Gigi, both in their own way, soak in all the grandeur the Classic brings every year, from the multitude of celebrities that fly into New Orleans from across the country, to the deep Afrocentric culture that exudes from the city and the ladies checking out what the eligible bachelors look like. Daniel re-connects with a large crowd of football players that he once played with or coached.
“We basically take over New Orleans,” said Daniel.
For both, the best game plan for the Classic is family.
“When you go with your family, it’s an experience of family, love, pride that you share that with someone you love,” said Daniel.
Genara said that their two kids – Thompson, 16 and Danni Elise, 13 – have “gone to the Bayou Classic since they were in my womb.”
“I pray that our kids carry on this tradition,” she said.
For now, the Morris family will once again travel to the Crescent City and paint the town … black and gold – if you’re a Gramblinite, Columbia blue and gold, if you’re a Southernite; or all the aforementioned colors if you’re a “Tigaur.”