Administration

Howard University's marching band to escort Harris at inauguration

Howard University (HU) announced this week that it will have a part to play in the inauguration of alum Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, with its famed marching band scheduled to escort the former senator at the historic event.

The university said its Showtime Marching Band will escort Harris at the inauguration on Wednesday and "perform a special drum cadence for the parade." 

"It is our esteemed honor to be involved in the historic inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris," Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement. "Throughout her career, the vice president-elect has carried her Howard education with her, ensuring that she adhere to truth and service and inspiring her to achieve unprecedented levels of excellence."

"It is perfectly fitting that the Showtime Marching Band, the ensemble that captures and reverberates the heartbeat of our institution, should accompany her on this last leg of her journey to the White House," Frederick said.

"It was that steady pulse of her Alma Mater's legacy that propelled her forward, and it is that same rhythm that will carry her onward as she undoubtedly will become one of the most influential vice presidents in the history of our nation," he added. 

The school said in its announcement on Monday that its band will have its "drumline, the Flashy Flag Squad, and Ooh La La dancers in the inauguration parade, representing less than one-third of the band for safety precautions," given the ongoing pandemic.

Kelvin Washington, the school's band director, said its are "proud to unite safely" to "represent Howard University, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and all HBCUs across the country."

Once Harris is sworn in on Wednesday, she will become the first woman, Black American and South Asian American to serve as the country's vice president. However, there are other glass ceilings the former senator will break upon her inauguration later this week, including being the first graduate of a historically Black university and the first member of a historically African American Greek-lettered organization to serve in the role. 

Harris studied political science and economics at HU before going on to graduate from the university in 1986. She is also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. (AKA), the nation's oldest African American Greek-lettered sorority, where she was also initiated into during her time at HU.

She has credited both institutions with having a significant role in shaping her into the woman she is today.

According to a press release from the school, the Wednesday swearing-in ceremony inauguration will mark the first time much of the student band members have been together since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

However, Washington, who has experience with performing at past inauguration parades, said he is ready. 

"I had the pleasure to perform as a student at Southern University in 1980 for former President Ronald Reagan's inauguration, then as associate director of the Howard University Band for former President Barack Obama and now this one would be my third," he said in a statement. 

Courtney Gilliam, a women studies graduate student at the university who is also co-captain of the Flashy Flag Squad, said her team has also "been conditioning, learning tosses and practicing dances to band music since last summer at our respective homes." 

"So, finally hearing the heartbeat of the band, even in this small degree, is powerful for the entire band, and I'm sure the student body will be excited to see their peers help usher in our fellow Bison," she said.

"I think the amendments to this year's inaugural events are appropriate for the times we are experiencing. I've been eager for months to see how Howard University would be included in this momentous inauguration, and it's great to know that we're able to safely execute traditional events and be represented as the marching band and musical heart of the vice president's Alma Mater," she also said.

"As the first of many more progressive elections/inaugurations for women, it feels euphoric to be involved. I'm beyond elated to be able to participate with the Flashy Flag Squad, Ooh La La Dancers and percussion section," she added.

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