Battle of the Bands: HBCUs tell us why they’re taking the crown — through memes

The epitome of HBCU culture is the sound and soul of the band, and soon the sounds of six HBCU marching bands will meet in Alabama for one of the largest battles of the year.

HBCU pride and competition have brought students, alumni and fans together for more than 19 years at the annual Honda Battle of the Bands. This year will mark the first time the event has been held on an HBCU campus, Alabama State University in Montgomery.

“The ASU stadium will provide a perfect setting for the Honda Battle of the Bands; and I know that with the support of Hornet Nation, the City of Montgomery and (battle of the band) fans, the event will be a great success,” Dr. Quinton T. Ross Jr., ASU president wrote in a press release.

Read more HBCU stories from Reckon here.

Rickey Smiley, an Alabama State alumnus, comedian and radio personality, will host the battle on Feb. 18, 2023, along with Prairie View A&M University alumna Loni Love, also a comedian and actress.

More than 10,000 votes online and nationwide were cast for the best HBCU marching bands that will compete in the event: The Alabama State University Mighty Marching Hornets, Savannah State University Powerhouse of the South, Langston University Marching Pride, Morgan State University Magnificent Marching Machine, Texas Southern University Ocean of Soul and Virginia State University Trojan Explosion

With competition and pride brewing between HBCU marching bands for who will win this year’s battle, Reckon reached out to band directors and members to ask for their take. They had a few things to say, some through memes:

Savannah State University Powerhouse of the South

DeAnte Hillman, a senior and the head drum major

Being at an HBCU, you realize that life is more important than you walking across the stage as an individual or making a certain amount of money; it’s about the people you influence, inspire and motivate. The greatest gift my HBCU has given me is an opportunity to get anywhere in life from here and not because of the weight of my degree, but because of the skills and talents, I’ve acquired by inspiring so many other individuals to be the best version of themselves as well as myself. They gave me an opportunity to lead by example in whatever paths of life I chose.

Langston University Marching Pride

Ja’Mireon Dilworth, junior and student director of Kappa Kappa Psi

HBCU band is the number one reason for me attending an HBCU. Before coming to Langston, I had friends at many HBCUs bands who would tell me about the family, the fun, and the adrenaline they got from the program. These programs have changed many lives for kids who needed music to feel welcomed, to feel accomplished, and to just have a hobby.

Texas Southern University “Ocean of Soul” Marching Band

Trenton A. Hunter, assistant director of bands/chief arranger

Participating in the 2023 Honda Battle of the Bands is a surreal feeling. As a kid from Athens, Georgia, my parents would take me to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta every year to attend the (battle). I was a spectator at every Honda (battle of the bands) since it started in 2003 until I went as a performer multiple times while in college at Jackson State University. Returning to the (battle) this year as a band director with Texas Southern truly feels like a full-circle moment and a literal dream come true.

Virginia State University Trojan Explosion

Indacia Turner, a junior and VSU twirler

My entire life, I have known nothing but Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Every day, it is an honor to attend an institution with endless Black excellence… I am honored every day to participate in the legacy not only of HBCU bands but, more specifically, the Trojan Explosion, which is known as the best band in the CIAA. ... My HBCU experience already means the world to me, but being a twirler in the Trojan Explosion gives me the ability to impact thousands of people with performance and talent.

Alexis Wray

Alexis Wray |

I report on HBCUs and Blackness, working to introduce voices and perspectives of students, alumni and community members that amplify the experiences of Black life on and off campus.

The Reckon Report.
Sign up to receive the Reckon Report newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday.