Dude, It’s The Marching Band!

‘Sup folk…

Last week my church had the honor of hosting the funeral of a young man, Robert Champion, that unfortunately lost his life due to reasons that the educational institution he attended, Florida A&M University, or the organization he was a member of, the famed Marching 100, have yet to uncover. From the jump people have speculated the possibilities of what befell the student but the most frequent allegation that has come out of the mouth of people is hazing. Usually associated with fraternities, sororities and the like, hazing takes place on just about every campus in these United States in one form or another. Maybe this is done to harden the underlings, to give a 21 year old the chance to let an unsuspecting 19 year old know who’s boss, or just a device to make one co-ed feel more powerful than another co-ed; I won’t claim to know about any of it but I will say this:

Dude, you’re in the f*ckin’ band.

The marching band used to be the place that all the kids not capable of the appropriate violence that it took to play football went when looking for a fall activity. They would go to band camp with their clarinets, trumpets, tubas and retainers and practice their routines to perform at halftime during the football season. And when they were done with that they would play the fight song and the drum line would rock out with some cadences in the stands and then the game would end and they would sway back and forth with their mates as the school alma mater played. Then they would march out of the stadium to the band room, put their instruments away, and then go to wherever marching band members congregated after the game. That’s the marching band I knew but when I mention these memories people are quick to shoo my memories away because “Skrap went to a racially balanced high school with a corps style band” or “Skrap went to a predominantly white college so he won’t understand how we do it.”

What’s not to understand though? It’s the marching band right?

I’m not going to front like I can even try to comprehend this madness, I won’t, I need my brain cells and don’t want to kill the number necessary to compute why there is any sort of violence, whether internal or versus another band, in a daggone marching band. I have friends and acquaintances that have marched in the Marching 100, The Human Jukebox (Southern University), the Marching Storm (Prairie View A&M), they are all reasonable human beings for the most part. I’ve asked a couple of them in the last few days since the Robert Champion incident what they experienced, the last reply I got was, “Man, come on now.” Typically when a man tells you, “Man, come on now” he either wants to: a)Change the subject, or b)Deflect the question because he would have to tell you an answer that incriminates. Even so, since when is the marching band the home for underground organizations? For hazing? For any activity other than keeping your formations tight and your sound clear? Since when does the fight happen at halftime and not during the actual football game? (I’m looking at you Southern vs. Prairie View and any other intra-school band fight that helped inspire the movie Drumline)

This is the f*ckin’ Marching Band, dude.

And on the off chance that there is hazing, and I’m just gonna go ahead and say for the sake of this piece that it exists in the freakin’ marching band of all places, what does it accomplish? Honestly? Does anything hazing entails (deprivation, threats, physical abuse, etc) actually make a person a better band member? If I, say, take a portion of a section member’s travel money will that make her notes cleaner while she’s high stepping her way across the field? If the trumpets decide to gang up on the young freshman that joins the band will that make him a more effective crowd pleaser when the dance section of the show fires off? What does it prove? What does it accomplish? Honestly…what? The question is rhetorical so don’t bother trying to answer, if you did I’m pretty sure I’d tune you out simply for trying to justify the madness.

Because it’s the f*ckin’ marching band, dude.

Now I don’t want to try any of you band types because obviously things have changed dramatically and I certainly don’t want any of these new fangled band members that “I just wouldn’t understand” to go and pop the trunk on me; last thing I want is for someone to roll up on me wielding a trombone and run up on me looking to use it as a weapon. I just wonder what’s happening to not only the bands, but the institutions that are supposed to be preparing the young people in their care to be responsible citizens. I know, I know…it happens everywhere, it’s not just us, and the White schools do it too. You’re exactly right, they do, but you also know that those institutions aren’t looked at in the same way as the FAMU’s and the Southern’s and the (name your HBCU here); not fair but that’s the way it is. But fair or not, Black or not, White or not isn’t the issue. The issue is silliness and stupidity gone too far, you can play a stirring rendition of “We Fall Down, But We Get Up” and have all the candlelight vigils you want, but illogical behavior, in one form or another be it hazing or otherwise, caused the loss of a life…in a f*ckin’ marching band, and that’s something that I won’t understand.

And I’m sure the family of young Mr. Champion won’t either.

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