When then-Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden selected a 55-year-old junior senator from California and Howard University grad to be his running mate Aug. 11, Howard band director Kelvin Washington started thinking about the school’s Showtime Band strutting down Pennsylvania Avenue on inauguration day.

Five months and nine days later, one-third of the band — the drumline, the Flashy Flag squad and the Ooh La La dancers — will escort Vice President Kamala Harris into history.

“We started formulating plans the day that she was announced as the running mate for Joe Biden. We thought if the Democrat wins we would be called upon, we just didn’t realize that it would just be the drumline,” Washington said of the invitation limiting participation to 40 students.

“In the midst of the pandemic and with all of the things that we have witnessed…it is more than a celebratory moment,” said Washington. “It gives us a chance for the students to come together because we have been online since March.

In a statement released by the campus news service, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick said, “It is our esteemed honor to be involved in the historic inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris. Throughout her career, the vice-president elect has taken her Howard education with her.”

“I’ve been eager for months to see how Howard University would be included in this momentous inauguration, and it’s great to know that we’re able to safely execute traditional events and be represented as the marching band and musical heart of the vice-president’s alma mater,” Courtney Gillam, a women’s studies graduate student and co-captain of the flag squad.

But the honor is not without a drawback for Washington. He said it was not easy to tell his band members that due to COVID-19 only the drumline, flag team and dancers could participate.

Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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