WASHINGTON — At 11:41 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2021, the sound of glass shattering reverberated across Washington, D.C. as Kamala Harris became the first female, Black, South Asian American vice president of the United States. A few hours later, her alma mater provided the soundtrack to the historic day, performing a special drum cadence as Harris made her way to the White House.
Howard University’s Showtime Marching Band escorted their esteemed alumna down 15th Street to Pennsylvania Avenue during a mostly-virtual "Parade Across America." Following the president's lead, Harris exited her armored car and walked the abbreviated parade route with her family, including her husband, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, and her grand-nieces.
“Throughout her career, the vice president-elect has carried her Howard education with her, ensuring that she adhere to truth and service and inspiring her to achieve unprecedented levels of excellence,” Howard University President Wayne A. I. Frederick said in a statement. “It is perfectly fitting that the Showtime Marching Band, the ensemble that captures and reverberates the heartbeat of our institution, should accompany her on this last leg of her journey to the White House.”
Howard University’s band also performed during President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009. According to the university, the band was only about a third of its normal size as a precaution to ward off the spread of coronavirus. All band members were given N-95 masks to wear underneath their uniform masks and took COVID tests before being cleared to participate.
The band’s drumline was joined by the university’s Flashy Flag Squad and Ooh La La Dancers. The University of Delaware's marching band, from the president's alma mater, was the only other in-person performance during the parade.
“Twenty or 30 years later, I can tell my nieces and nephews and my children and grandkids like, ‘Hey, you know, I was marching on the inaugural escort for Kamala Harris," Flashy Flag Squad Captain Essence Blake, a Howard University senior, said.
Harris is a 1986 Howard grad, who double-majored in political science and economics. She spent her time at the HBCU growing her knowledge of politics and issues facing the country, interning as a mailroom clerk for California Sen. Alan Cranston. Harris was also a member of the debate team, joined Alpha Kappa Alpha and protested in D.C. against Apartheid in South Africa.
"At a time when the Black community is coping with the disproportionate social and economic impacts of COVID-19, a global reckoning with systemic racism, and the loss of some of our cultural and social icons, we are proud to call Howard University alumna Kamala Harris a monumental catalyst for collective joy and positive change," Frederick said shortly after the 2020 election.
Howard boasts many incredible alumni, from esteemed civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall to activist Stokely Carmichael, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and the late actor Chadwick Boseman.
"I’m so proud of Kamala and I’m so proud to stand on the grounds where she walked," alumna Kenya Sumner said shortly after Biden and Harris secured their win in the 2020 election.
"Soror Kamala is the embodiment of 'everything is possible'," Harris' sorority sister Tira Oliver added.
To whom much is given, much is required and her fellow Bison left Harris with a mission.
"Just remember as HBCU students, how we are under-funded, how we are under-represented," Timothy McDonald, Mister Howard University 2020, said. "Being in the position that you are in you have a chance to really help us out a lot. So just remember us and remember where you came from."