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

Morgan State, D-Day

by Daniel Johnson

The band took over 100 members to Normandy, France to perform on the 80th anniversary of D-Day.

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

D-Day on June 6, 1944, was a decisive operation of World War II in which 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. Over 156,000 troops from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and other Allied nations participated. The successful operation marked a turning point in the war and ultimately led to the defeat of Nazi Germany.

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

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

Reid continued, speaking briefly about the impact his grandfather's survival of the invasion had on him and his family. “I wouldn't be here if he hadn't survived,” Reid said. “Ten thousand soldiers on the beach that we're going to march to. There's blood in the sand. We're going to march — like I told the band. On your right, you're going to see a beautiful beach — that beautiful beach, beautiful scenery. On your left, you're going to see bullet holes.”

The students seemed to understand the immense importance of their task, as they were scheduled to play “America the Beautiful” and “Taps” while marching through two French cities. Additionally, the band was scheduled to play “Tribute to (Fallen) Americans” at the Normandy American Center and lay a wreath to pay respect to those who lost their lives during the attack. Band member Dante Travis, a sophomore, told the outlet, “Just to be part of the first HBCUs to participate in this D-Day parade in Normandy — it's a very blessed opportunity.”

Reid echoed Travis' sentiment: “Definitely a great opportunity. Our students are grateful. It's a blessing for our students. Our current students are experiencing something like this.”

As The Spokesman, Morgan State University's student newspaper, reported, the band has been invited by Music Celebrations International and the American Veteran Affairs Center to perform in the summer of 2023. Reid pointed out to the publication the importance of highlighting the contributions of black soldiers at a time when some were not allowed to fight in service of their country. “Native American…[and] “Certainly African Americans were responsible for clearing away the bodies. In some places they were not even allowed to fight, even though they wanted to fight.”

In the press release announcing the selection for the performance, David K. Wilson, president of Morgan State University, expressed his gratitude to the groups for selecting the band to perform and allowing their members to experience history first hand.

“When we think of the historic events that shaped the 20th century and the decades since, 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 represent not only our university, but our nation, on such a grand world stage to commemorate such a monumental occasion is truly an honor,” said President Wilson. “We thank the event organizers for recognizing the talented student performers we have at Morgan and for providing them with this once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows them to touch history.”

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