A Harlem Marching Band Celebrates Its Roots

November 8, 2017

Hyper Allergic reports that marching bands are joyous sights to behold, whether while watching them process down a football field or a decked-out street during Mardi Gras. The historical roots of these bands, however, are less cheerfully traced to military training and combat. For some it’s lesser known still is how black folks used marching bands as a means of political expression in the 19th century.

The exhibition Marching On: The Politics of Performanceopening this weekend at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, posits that marching bands were “historically used to acknowledge military service in African-American communities and the absence of civil rights despite sacrifices to defend the nation.” The exhibition delves into the history of the black Regiment the Harlem Hellfighters and the 1917 Silent March, when 10,000 African Americans processed through New York’s streets in silence, protesting violence and lynching.

To commemorate the rich history of marching bands, Marching On will inaugurate with a series of performances that are also officially a part of Performa 17‘s programming. Organized by Bryony Roberts and Mabel O. Wilson (both professors at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation in Harlem), the marching band performances will feature the Harlem-based Marching Cobras of New York, an after-school drum line and dance team on Saturday, November 11, 2017, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm; Sunday, November 12, 2017, 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm, performing at Marcus Garvey Park (122nd Street and Madison Avenue, Harlem, Manhattan.

More info about the event can be found here. The photograph is by Seitu Oronde here. 

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