In Formation: Alabama State served as first HBCU to lead Rose Bowl Parade

The Mighty Marching Hornets high stepped into the Tournament of Roses parade on New Year's Day, making history in the process


Black excellence was front and center New Year’s Day when Alabama State University’s Mighty Marching Hornets band made history high-stepping and leading the 130th annual Rose Bowl Parade, reports The Birmingham Times.

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It was the first time a band from a historically black college led the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, Calif., which was reportedly viewed by 70 million people in more than 150 countries.

The Mighty Marching Hornets is led by Marching Band Director Dr. James B. Oliver who was psyched about the historic moment.

“I’m telling everybody, you have to catch the parade from the beginning, said Oliver, “otherwise you are going to miss the best band there is. This is a big after Christmas present for these guys and they are excited they are really excited.”

The Mighty Marching Hornets is nationally acclaimed band and was one of two black college bands to attend the parade. The Florida A&M Marching 100 also joined the festivities, along with 18 other marching bands.

ASU was sought out for the opportunity Oliver said.

“The president of the Tournament of Roses, the first African-American president (Gerald Freeny), reached out and asked if we’d apply.”

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“It’s a historic time, to have the very first African-American president of the Tournament of Roses, and it’s going to go down in history for ASU to have participated in the parade.”

Oliver said the “unforgettable experiences” of the past week could not have happened without community support.

“It’s not easy to raise $300- or $400,000 to make this trip so it means a lot to our university but it represents so much because we’re representing the state of Alabama and we’re also representing the city of Montgomery,” he said.