Morgan State University’s Magnificent Marching Machine to perform at first-ever White House Juneteenth Concert

The university’s renowned marching band will perform at the celebration, hosted on the White House’s South Lawn, on June 13, 2023.

Alex Ederson, Co-Sports Editor

Morgan State University’s Magnificent Marching Machine, or “M3”, will perform on the White House South Lawn as part of the residence’s first ever Juneteenth Concert. The White House announced the lineup for this evening’s events, which will include performances from three other historically black colleges (HBCUs) including Hampton University, Fisk University and Tennessee State University.

The Juneteenth Concert is set for June 13, just six days before the actual holiday, and is headlined by acclaimed singer Audra McDonald, Wu Tang Clan rapper Method Man, and actress/singer Jennifer Hudson.

Featured performers are listed below.

  • Broadway Inspirational Voices
  • Colman Domingo
  • Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • Hampton University Concert Choir
  • Ledisi
  • Maverick City Music
  • Morgan State University Marching Band – The Magnificent Marching Machine
  • Nicco Annan
  • Patina Miller
  • Step Afrika!
  • Tennessee State University Marching Band – Aristocrat of Bands
  • “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band

This will mark the first time since 2015 that a musical group from the university will perform at the White House. Previously, the Morgan State Choir performed as part of a gospel concert held by the Obama administration. 

M3 and other historically black college marching bands are considered the “heartbeat” of their college campuses according to senior Reginald L. Allen, the band’s trombone section leader. 

The history of marching bands at HBCUs goes back to the 1870’s when Fisk University and Hampton University first created their bands. The creation of such marching bands has given Black musicians opportunities that were initially only afforded to their white counterparts.

“Morgan State has done a lot in its history…if you count [Morgan’s marching band] back all the way to my father back in the 80s, he and a couple other people performed for the Olympics.”

Allen is a “legacy” band member at Morgan State; his father marched in the 1980’s during the reign of previous band director Dr. Melvin Miles. With his family’s history in mind, Allen is well aware of how integral marching bands are to their respective HBCUs.

“You say Jukebox, people say, ‘Oh, Southern University’. You say Sonic Boom, ‘Oh, Jackson State’. You say Jackson State you’re automatically thinking about that band. You talk about FAMU, the same thing, the Marching 100.”

Helping to continue the success of M3 is Dr. Jorim Reid, who was appointed band director in 2022 when Miles retired after 49 years of service to the university. Under Reid’s leadership, Morgan was invited to the Honda Battle of the Bands for the first time in the school’s history and will perform in France’s D-Day Normandy Parade in 2024.

Reid thanks his students, assistant directors and social media teams for “putting (M3’s performances) out in the media.”

When asked about the significance of the White House’s holiday celebration, Dr. Reid explained that to him, Juneteenth is “the commemoration of the emancipation of when we [Black Americans] were enslaved.”

Juneteenth became recognized as a federal holiday in 2021 under the Biden administration, but its history dates back to 1865 when the final enslaved people were emancipated. The first known Juneteenth celebration was recorded in 1866 Galveston, Texas. 

Some believe that when Abraham Lincoln passed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863 that it enslaved people across the country were granted freedom, but in actuality, the proclamation only emancipated those enslaved in the Confederacy.

President Lincoln did encourage border states in the Union that were slave states, like Maryland, to emancipate their enslaved people, but it was not mandatory abolition until the passing of the 13th Amendment.

Senior Travis Jones, assistant drum major, believes that the Juneteenth holiday is about more than just the full emancipation of enslaved people.

“To me, Juneteenth is the African American independence holiday, not July 4, where people want to celebrate America. June 19 is actually for African Americans and to me, it’s a big step.”

According to Jones, the celebration of Juneteenth is more than fancy social media marketing and sales at stores. The significance it plays in the African American community is something that cannot be understated and its history deserves to be taught.

“We need to do a better job of expressing that holiday…not just off of marketing, sales, but also off of history. Making sure people know what the history is, don’t take it out of school. Elementary, middle school, high school students [need to] know what it actually means,” he said.

Allen believes that the idea of Juneteenth isn’t just a look toward the past, but an active lasting battle that needs to be fought.

“Juneteenth, to me, is one of those memorable stepping stones because, as we know in history, even though Juneteenth recognizes the slaves in Texas [being emancipated], that battle that we’ve had for having equity and equal rights was not over.”

America has a brutal history with cracking down on various civil rights movements post-emancipation. Civil rights leaders were assassinated with help from clandestine government agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The fight towards equity doesn’t end with the recognition of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

“Representation needs to be implemented alongside true action…we get different celebrations, that is all fine and well for the morale of people, but it does nothing if we still live in those [conditions].”

These conditions are often devastating. Black Americans are twice as likely to be killed by police than white Americans, twice as likely to be impoverished and five times as likely to be incarcerated.

“I love Juneteenth and any other memorial and any other recognition…Representation makes us feel good but it means nothing if we’re still getting killed, or we’re still getting undercut, or we’re getting underrepresented in jobs.”

Click here to watch Morgan’s Magnificent Marching Machine’s performance at this year’s White House Juneteenth Concert on June 13, 7 p.m. EST.