Editor’s note: Dereyck Moore is currently employed by NBA digital and previously worked for CNN Digital. He is a graduate of Florida A&M University, where he was a member of the FAMU marching band from 1990 to 1994.
The Florida A&M University Marching 100 band is an icon: they have played at inaugural presidential parades and Superbowls, and been a source of pride.
Ask any “Rattler”, or band member, and they will tell you the Marching 100 is a terrific reason to proclaim “I’m from FAMU”.
Without the the band, homecoming won’t be the same.
But the pride and exuberance I feel about my experiences in the band has been shaken to the core in light of their extended suspension after the fatal hazing of band member Robert Champion.
I believe the suspension is a necessary step to ensure the safety of young people who simply wish to play their part in a tradition, and am hopeful for the greater good.
On a warm October Saturday in 2010, I drove four hours to Tallahassee, Florida, to celebrate homecoming.
It was my 20-year anniversary of my start at FAMU, and I was joined by my band mates, who had come from near and far to experience this feeling, to spend time with these people, and to see this band.
For FAMU marching band alumni, seeing the band warm up is a hidden gem of homecoming: it is a moment you simply do not want to miss.
That visit, longtime band director Julian White raised his baton, and the Marching 100 began a stirring rendition of gospel singer Donnie McClurkin’s song “We Fall Down”.
The song began with a meticulous blend of warm chords, and the instrumentation was crisp and concise.
A prideful smile escaped my face, and the guy next to me could not stop grinning either.
The song is powerful.
Suddenly, this “marching” band did something out of the ordinary. They put their horns in an at-rest position, and begin to sing these words in near-perfect harmony:
“We fall down,
But we get up…
For a saint is just a sinner who fell down,
But we couldn’t stay there,
And got up…
Get back up again…
Get back up again…
Get back up again…”
It was a captivating moment.
As they sang, I thought: “This is why I love this band. This is precisely why I’m so glad I chose to be a part of this.”
Today, the instruments are quiet as I remember those words and that day.
This fall, I won’t see them take the field at Bragg Memorial Stadium.
This upcoming season, there will be silence, and it will hurt.
We have indeed fallen down.
As the family of Robert Champion copes with their loss, perhaps this time of silence can allow all of us to hear the true harmony necessary to heal.
The Marching 100 has fallen down.
I am hopeful we can get back up again.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dereyck Moore.