A boundless list of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) marching bands are coming to Brooklyn for a day of joy and music this Saturday, Sept. 25.
Organized by Brooklyn Councilmember Robert Cornegy, the Battle of the Bands at Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza, 1368 Fulton Street, includes marching bands from Alabama, to Louisiana, to right here in New York City.
“There’s a great relationship with all these HBCUs. It’s a very important part of his [Cornegy] identity. It’s a very strong network,” said Cornegy Spokesperson Raul Rothblatt, noting Cornegy’s proud membership of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity, Epsilon chapter. It’s the first New York chapter of the primarily Black fraternity that’s found not just at HBCUs but at many other institutions.
There is currently an Omega Psi Phi fraternity at St. John’s University, where the Councilmember played basketball, said Rothblatt.
The network is extensive and even when fraternity members graduate, they stay connected as they reach new heights of success—especially since these organizations are built on community service, the Battle of the Bands fits right into that mission.
Not only will the live music boom throughout the streets of Bed-Stuy, but DJ’s from some of the colleges will play their own mixes. DJ P-Drama from Morgan State University in Maryland, DJ Jon-Quick from West Virginia State University, The Legendary Chris Washington from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and DJ Play Dat from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania will come through and spin.
“And … we have a growing group of people who are doing the HBCU style marching bands,” said Rothblatt.
A new group that isn’t tied to a university, Brooklyn Alliance Drumline, is slated to attend and perform. They’re a group of music students from around the city instructed by Michael Mendoza, Stephon Bridges and Vaughn Armour that formed in 2020. Many of them come from respected HBCU-style bands.
“We had so much fun last year. We’re excited to be able to show growth over a year,” said Bridges, the band’s director and HBCU graduate from Delaware State University. They’ll do a ten-minute set that he says will bring the house down.
Rothblatt said Cornegy’s office is excited to see everyone come together in spite of the pandemic. “We really need something like this right now. We need something that’s purely positive,” he said. Though he noted that marching band practices can be loud and neighbors may complain, he said it is more important for the community to get together and celebrate the music.