Hampton University, glorious HBCU academic institution of heartland Virginia, shudders under the dominion of The Force. “What is The Force?” you may ask. It is not, in point of fact, anything associated with the brawny arm of government oppression, nor has it anything to do with white Virginians taunting Hampton’s dominantly African-American student body with Lee-Jackson-Luther Day instead of simply Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nor has it anything to do with pesky globalization and its pesky foreign manufacturing competition. And so you ask “Dear Writers, Protectors of Truth, what is The Force? Tell us now!!!” Fair readers, let us relieve you of your distress: The Force is Hampton University’s Division ‘Awesome’ recreational entertainment activities body tour de fuckin’ force. It is comprised of a marching band, drumline, and (intentionally intercapped) EbonyFire dance squad whose powers together intertwine to provide enthusiasm, spirit, and pride for the sports teams of Hampton University. The Force doesn’t ask you if you’re ready; it doesn’t make excuses for its funky shrugs, new school moves as they shimmify (shimmy+unify) with the sound waves of “Soulja Boy” and “LoveStoned;” all it does if give you a “wall of sound.” If you’re not ready, you’ll probably die from falling down the football stadium stairs because it’s so revolutio-fuckin’-awesome. I first encountered the mythic Sphinx of Hampton University at a football game in New Jersey when its dramatically less significant football team, the Hampton Pirates, played the Princeton University Tigers. None of those latter mentions are important except that their sporting activity’s half-time featured The Force as its potluck centerpiece.
It was a warm afternoon on October 6, two-thousand-seven when The Force the-forced us into stunned submission. After two quarters of sub-par football, it was almost time for them to appear. First, we had to endure the epileptic to’s and fro’s of Princeton’s marching band. Quirky though they were, their antics were destined to be terminated by the pesticide that was The Force’s presence. Princeton’s band finished, and a breeze of excitement washed over us. No, it wasn’t the all-white old boys club of Cottage Club members to my right that were raucously welcoming Hampton’s The Force to our field in an unusually excited, condescending barrage of salutatory screams. It was, rather, just a general sense of enthusiasm. The band organized, standing behind its front line of drum majors wielding wands of well-wanted wizardry. Then they started playing. I think the song was . . . I don’t remember what the first song was. But I remember being wowed in the way that one hopes to be wowed when HBCU Hampton plays an Ivy League school for only the second time in its history (The first time was when Yale beat them 48-0 a decade or two ago) and brings its band and dancers to demonstrate a statement of “We’re better than you, so just chill on it.”
The band moved flawlessly in formation. No knee was too low or too high. No tuba tipped forward out of the grasp of its player as he leaned forward to bump-bounce backwards. No. All of their moves and playing were on cue and efficient. Their formations might have read: “We’re not fucking around. This music – we mean this music.” Suffice to say that after playing a song or two, the trumpet players, clarinetists, and trombones got tired of watching EbonyFire’s dance moves with the manufactured, factory-line movements that performing on breath-sensitive brass instruments permits. So they stopped playing their instruments for the rest of the show altogether, content to Chicken Noodle Soup (It’s a dance move, you hermit-philistine) all over the field in fine rhythm with the dancers and flag mystiques. So let us now say a word about the dancing.
Their unoriginal dance moves say, “We don’t care! We live to dance! Dancing is breathing! Fuck y’all!” Then their silver-and-plastic-clothed, ba-funk-a-funk choreography throws some attitude eggs on your face. They employ a cautiously measured mélange of Harlem shake, Crip Walk, Hyphy, Grinding, and Wu-tang-derived sh-sh-shakes to express the theme of the music – which is so obvious that we needn’t mention it; it mentions itself, really, or rather Hampton’s participating announcer does as he chants “Oh! Oh!” and “That’s money!”
“How does it feel – the force of The Force – all together, when you’ve got the marching band, drumline, and EbonyFire dance squad all projecting upon you?” the Average Joe might ask. Well, let us tell you, Joe: It feels like they’re “Ghost-Riding the Whip” all up and down your body. “Argghh!!!” Just like their completely irrelevant Pirate mascots would go if they were ever present in any of Hampton’s school spirit activities. Anyone that pretends race had anything to do with everyone’s excitement is a racist bitch/bastard. Fuck you for thinking that the reason so many pasteled Princetonians were laughing rather than cheering at Hampton’s performers had anything to do with the fact that they were a group of students from a self-segregating anachronism of education at an institution where minorities used to be relegated to second-class status. And do not misinterpret the joy that many legacies of Princeton’s racists from years past received from watching The Force at Princeton’s home field, because if you do, then you’re the problem with America today.
The Force together with the audience’s reception was nothing more or less than unity: social unity, educational unity, spirit unity. We must assure you that there was no tone or obvious presence of segregation. No! The function of The Force was naught but to inspire and express; theirs was a performance that was all about the art and nothing to do with the meta-cultural context that would create such art.
Indeed, as we think back upon what the performance that day, all we can allow ourselves to remember is that a group of students performed, and they performed their hearts out. Go Pirates!
Beginning in 1889, Virginia celebrated the birthdays of it two greatest Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Thomas Jackson on January 19, the day of Lee’s birth. In 1983, when the U.S. made the third Monday of January into Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Virginia decided it would be best to celebrate his birthday along with Lee’s and Jackson’s, hence Lee-Jackson-Luther Day. This holiday became rather awkward, and so in 2000, they separated them into two holidays. But they still celebrate Lee-Jackson Day on the Friday before Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Because Virginia still loves its history.