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Saturday, November 14, 2015

From The District to Columbia

You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are. -Yogi Bhajan

Over the past few weeks, students in sports and marching/athletic music realized the power they wield to fight injustice in two distinct arenas. In the nation's capital, the marching band at Howard University went silent as their scholarships and band budget went unpaid. Meanwhile, in the nation's heartland, the football team at the University of Missouri joined in solidarity with campus protests of a racially intolerant climate and inaction from the university president. The team vowed not to participate in any football-related activities until the president was removed from his position.

In both cases, the protests met their primary objective: SHOWTIME is back in action, having received their payment, and Missouri's president Tim Wolfe has resigned, though a hostile environment persists on the Columbia campus. The two situations differ: At Howard, the band members went silent due to an issue directly related to their membership in the band; at Mizzou, the football team, comprised of a majority of black students, stepped up not because of an affront to the team itself, but to their identity as black students on campus. Both sets of students - primarily black students in each - made manifest the power at their hands due to the part they play in our nation's Saturday obsession.

At Mizzou, a football Saturday cannot take place without the men on the team. Not surprisingly, people started listening once they got involved, despite all but ignoring another student's hunger strike. At Howard, while the games can continue, the game day experience is drastically deadened without the band's presence. While Silent Showtime was reasonably quiet outside of HBCU and marching band circles, the Mizzou football team brought the attention of ESPN and the sports entertainment complex to Columbia. Both groups went about their protests nonviolently but persistently, and both effected reasonably swift change. It has been a while since we have seen action on this level from groups of students with this particular type of power; are these isolated incidents, or the start of a sea change?
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