Morgan State University First HBCU To Perform At D-Day Commemoration In Normandy

On June 7, Morgan State University became the first HBCU to perform in Normandy, France, at the 80th Anniversary and Commemoration of D-Day. The band took over 100 members to honor the sacrifices of the soldiers who served in World War II.

D-Day, on June 6, 1944, was a crucial World War II operation where Allied forces launched the largest amphibious invasion in history on the beaches of Normandy, France, to begin the liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation. It involved over 156,000 troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and other Allied nations. The successful operation marked a turning point in the war, eventually leading to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

As CBS News reports, Jorim E. Reid Sr., director of Morgan State University’s band, known as the Magnificent Marching Machine, has a personal connection to the D-Day invasion. 

“It is bigger than the band,” Reid told CBS affiliate WMZ News. “Our students have been prepared and educated on what this means. Not just HBCU bands but all marching bands come from the military and that’s often forgotten. And the traditions of the syncopated movements, the regimented activities, the discipline, the flair, the dignity has already been attributed to marching bands.” 

Reid continued, briefly discussing the impact his grandfather’s survival of the invasion had on him and his family. “I would not be here if he hadn’t survived,” said Reid. “Ten thousand soldiers on that beach where we will be marching on. There’s blood in that sand. We will be marching– as I told the band. On your right, you’re going to see a beautiful beach– this beautiful beach, beautiful scenery. On your left, you’re left you’re going to see bullet holes.”

The students seemed to have grasped the immense importance of their task, they were to perform renditions of “America the Beautiful” and “Taps” while marching through two French towns. In addition, the band was set to perform “Tribute to (Fallen) Americans” at the Normandy American Center and lay a wreath in commemoration of their respects for those who gave their lives during the attack. Band member Dante Travis, a sophomore, told the outlet, “To just be a part of the first HBCUs to do this Normandy D-Day Parade— is a very blessed opportunity.”

Reid, meanwhile, echoed Travis’s sentiments, “Definitely a great opportunity. Our students are grateful. It’s a blessing for our students. Our current students experience something like this.

As The Spokesman, Morgan State University’s student newspaper, reported the band was invited to perform during the summer of 2023 by Music Celebrations International and the American Veteran Affairs Center. Reid pointed out to the publication the importance of highlighting Black soldiers’ contributions at a time when some weren’t allowed to fight in service of their country. “Native American…[and] certainly African Americans, they were responsible for cleaning up bodies. In some places, they weren’t even allowed to fight even though they wanted to fight.”

In the press release announcing their selection for the performance, David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University, indicated his gratitude towards the groups for selecting the band to perform and allowing its members to experience history in person.

“When we think of the historic events that have shaped the 20th century and the decades thereafter, the courageous moments that took place on the beaches of Normandy, France nearly 80 years ago, are among them. The opportunity to have our students not only represent our University but also our nation on such a grand world stage in recognition of such a monumental occasion is truly an honor,” President Wilson said. “Our thanks to the event organizers for their recognition of the talented student performers we have at Morgan, and for providing them with this lifetime experience allowing them to touch history.”

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