DMLK Takes on NOLA

Dec. 14, 2017

Known for in its contributions to American history, world-famous Victorian-style architecture and eclectic dining options, New Orleans (NOLA), the birthplace of jazz, is renowned for hosting a variety of festivals and sporting events, most notably Mardi Gras and the Essence Festival. It is no question that a city this rich in culture knows how to host a large-scale event. Visitors travel from coast to coast to experience first-hand what the Big Easy has to offer. Some might say it could be similar to an event weekend such as the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. A city with this much tradition also takes pride in its rivalries, such as the Bayou Classic. The Bayou Classic is much more than a football game. This annual event in November displays one of the country’s greatest college sports rivalries, bringing fans and alumni of Southern University and Grambling State University to New Orleans during Thanksgiving weekend. A week of events including a parade, step show, fan festival, and battle of the bands, concluding the weekend with the grand finale Bayou Classic football match-up on Saturday make this weekend highly anticipated throughout the year. In brainstorming ideas of how we could encourage our Drumline students to take their talent to the next level and turn their skill into something that could pay for their college, the idea of taking our students to Louisiana came to fruition. Last year, we brought twenty students and were able to experience the NOLA culture first-hand. In addition to the Bayou weekend festivities, we were able to take our students to a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) college fair, where our school made the local news and I was able to speak toward why we were in NOLA and why we were doing this for our students. The trip was a great success and it left us motivated to return, “bigger and better” the next year. With the decision to move forward making another trip happen quickly, various key components had to come into play. Drumline, Band and Orchestra teacher, Mr. U’Ren’s excitement and motivation led him to reach out to the organizers of the Bayou Classic and arrange for our Drumline to perform in the weekend’s festivities. He had to submit video of them performing, and we were selected to participate! Mr. U’Ren was also willing to drive all of the equipment, LEAVING THANKSGIVING DAY, 22 hours one-way, to New Orleans to be sure our Drumline could show NOLA what we had to offer. That trip would not have been possible without the support of his co-driver and South’s Band teacher, Kyle Dobbins. Thank you to South’s Principal Jennifer Hanson for allowing him to miss a day of work returning to support the, “students first” motto and get all of the equipment safely to the event. Treasurer Ty Hall, with the assistance of secretary, Stephanie Sanchez spent countless hours planning logistics, securing tickets, collecting money, organizing transportation/rooms/chaperones, and more. Communication Specialist, Mindi Onwuegbu, sought and secured donations from various partners and businesses as well as outfitted the Drumline and attendees in DMLK gear, guaranteeing we were to be taken seriously. She also updated our school banner and provided DMLK swag for us to hand out to our newly-acquired NOLA fan base. Thank you to the chaperones, Jacquelyn Brown Scales, Jason Murdock Sr.TK Neal, Susanna Clark, Rachael Jacobs, Ronnie Adams and Leola Marsh who sacrificed needed rest and precious time with their families during break to support our students in experiencing the trip of a lifetime. Instructional Superintendent Sean Precious, you continue to amaze me. Sean contacted Eric “Doc” Jones in Louisiana who secured 2 school busses and a police escort picking us up from the airport and taking us to our hotel as well as to and from the parade. We felt like royalty to be blanketed in such southern hospitality! That contact, alone, saved us $3,000 in transportation fees. Highlights of the trip: DMLK received a shout out in front of 25,000+ people for attending and participating in the event (; various schools and groups showed school love and wanted to battle our Drumline; our Drumline fan base has exponentially grown; trying alligator po’ boys and other creole options were tasted, culture was absorbed, laughs and incredible memories for all involved were made. Opportunities like this can provide clarity and motivation for students who don’t know where they should go or what they should do after college. DMLK alum, Jayon Hall, realized he could picture himself in an environment such as this and thus enrolled in and is currently Grambling University as a freshman this year. It was nice to reconnect with him and hear how his college experience is going. We continuously strive to support our school’s mission and introduce our students to new experiences and opportunities. I am so blessed to work at DMLK and look forward to dreaming of future ideas with our staff. With a grateful heart, Kimberly Grayson, Principal Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Early College