I have attended two different HBCUs and have marched as a member of two very good HBCU band programs. Going to these schools has presented me with multiple opportunities that I would not have been afforded elsewhere. Being a member of these bands has taught me discipline, has transformed my body physically and has transformed me as a person more than any other organizations I have been a part of. I have traveled the country and performed for thousands at the pleasure of representing my illustrious university in a form in which many of my peers are not able to. As a reader of this blog, if there is one thing you must know by now, it is that being a member of a collegiate band has without a doubt changed my life and who I am as a person for the better. So imagine how elated I was to know that Lifetime would premier a television series about a collegiate band entitled Bama State Style. The show would chronicle the Alabama State University Might Marching Hornets Marching Band and the lives of its members.
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Then imagine my disappointment at finding out that this show would not be renewed by the network for a second season.
We see reality shows pop up all too often. The shows, while given the chance to portray positive images, often opt for dramatic, violent and “ratchet” episodes which glorify materialistic, immature and irresponsible men and women who want nothing more than their fifteen seconds of television fame. Often, these portrayals are of African American women, who have long been the topic of discussion as to whether or not reality television is responsible for the negativity that encompasses the African American image. So here comes Bama State Style, a show that follows the lives of collegiate bandsmen. From experience, I already knew what to expect on this show. I knew that the world would be able to see the work that goes into creating these shows and performances that the general public so often turns a quick eye to. I knew the world would have a chance to see the lengthy practices, the discipline that is required of bandsmen and the family bonds that we build within our organizations simply as a result of the work we put in collectively.
We finally had this chance to shed light on a group of African Americans who weren’t being ratchet, who weren’t going at each other’s heads and who weren’t indulging themselves in drama for the sake of ratings. We had the opportunity we have been preaching about for the last year. The folks who were protesting shows like Love and Hip Hop for their damaging effect on African American women’s images, had a show to be proud of. The HBCU world had something to stand behind and support. Collegiate bandsmen finally had a representation of some sort on national television. So what did we do to support them?
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Did Lifetime discontinue this show because of our lack of support via ratings? Did we not rant, rave, and tweet about this show in excess in the way we chronicle every minute of The Real Housewives of Atlanta? Or is it that the world truly does not want to see a group of young, black, and talented individuals working their butts off to put something on the field each week? Is America truly just not supportive of student musicians? Do we not give due credit to those who spend hours on end exerting themselves to the point of exhaustion and conditioning their minds and bodies for performance? What can we do as students and alumni of HBCUs to ensure that shows like this receive reports and continue to be shown? What can we do as collegiate bandsmen to ensure that shows like this exist as a way to dispel the hazing stereotypes we are so often bound by in our world?
I hope and pray that this show is picked up by another network. I hope and pray that those folks who have called for a positive reality show stand for the ones actually in existence. I pray collegiate bands and the bandsmen who give their all to their programs realize that this was our chance to have an image in the media that didn’t involve hazing. We had the chance to be more than just some fools on the field, and it has been limited to just one season. What are we going to do about that?