Bethune-Cookman May Be a Mess, But the Band is On Netflix!

In many ways, the upcoming Netflix documentary series ‘Marching Orders’ puts a lot of undue and unfair pressure on the Bethune-Cookman University Marching Wildcats. The band’s stories, it’s determination, and the inside look we may get at life within HBCU marching band culture may temporarily distract from what’s going on with the school, but it will not solve it.

The band and the institution are two separate and unique entities linked by three letters, BCU, and shared intrinsic value to Daytona Beach and the international HBCU community. Many HBCU advocates and supporters are so hungry for positive content about our schools, the series may be a salve to heal, even just for a few hours, the hurt caused by this proud school being in the midst of financial crisis.

Bethune-Cookman’s marching band remains among the largest, most well-respected and innovative bands in the country. If they come to your town and you don’t have at least 150 strong or 25 tubas or some combination of both, your home football crowd will be giving the Wildcats a standing ovation at the end of their show on your home turf.

And the practice and personality that goes into creating such a brand is likely to be on display in ‘Marching Orders,’ just as it was in ‘Drumline,’ ‘Bama’ State Style,’ and a plot line in ‘The Quad.’ The story of HBCU marching bands, despite the backdrop of HBCUs powering black students to high-level careers in all areas of industry, groundbreaking research, and revitalizing work to save black and animal lives, continues to be the best and only story we’re willing to share with a national audience.

But that’s the BCU Marching Wildcats. BCU the institution has lost million of dollars. Its leadership has been in upheaval. It faces several lawsuits from development companies and banks, and has pending litigation against its former president.

Prices for students, including those marching in the band, are increasing. And there seems to be no relief in sight for how a board allowed a president to put an institution in the same financial straits which have all but closed several HBCUs around the country.

Most of us want to be able to separate the two realities of band and institution. It is the same challenge for schools like Southern and FAMU, which while not in the same financial crisis as Bethune-Cookman face similar challenges in the politics and corruption eating away at their leadership infrastructure and profitability while their bands help strengthen the blinders for students and alumni, while camouflaging the work of campus enemies.

We cannot separate the two. If marching bands were the marketing and branding cure for all that ails HBCUs, the sector at large would have more than one out of every 10 black students enrolling in our institutions. If the Marching Wildcats could go on tour like the Fisk Jubilee Singers of generations ago and raise the money to pull Mary’s school out of debt, they would have published the traveling schedule by now.

So we can watch the series, help it to trend on Twitter and make it a feel-good story for the weekend. But that won’t raise the attention or the resources necessary to save this school — which even if it can broker and settle its way out of its bad contracts and lawsuits, will still have big bills, big distrust amongst its core stakeholders, and likely the same old board calling the shots.

But there won’t be a Netflix series to tell the story of how such an important HBCU will survive its darkest hour and an uncertain future.

13 comments
  1. Great article! Yes, we are fighting to keep the doors open at many HBCU’s. Alumni participation is so critical at times like this. I will definitely be a proud Wildcat watching Netflix. #TeamBCU

  2. Jarrett,
    Many B-CU stakeholders agree with your story. Therefore, we are challenging you and your colleagues to conduct an investigation regarding the ongoing SACSCOC violations of integrity and lack of separation between board members, namely the Chair and administration. She acts as if she is the shadow president. In many ways, she is.

    As the old saying goes, sunshine is the best disinfectant. Shine it on the Chair and her followers. Also, like the old saying goes, follow the money. Don’t paint all in leadership roles with a broad brush. The issues rest with a handful of people, starting with the Chair.

    Thank you!

  3. Jeff G, you sure are on the money about the Board Chair and they better follow that money! Her foundation… are you serious??? It’s a complete JOKE!!! Not only is the leadership responsible for the finances but also for upholding high moral standards. So riddle me this… how does the VP of Student Affairs, who was fired from Embry Riddle because of his BS, find himself at my beloved BC-U and is intimidating and literally screwing two of the cafeteria staff whose management reports to him?!?! These cafeteria workers (one past, one current) report to a supervisor who knows about the VP of Student Affairs’ sexual involvement but is also intimidated by him and is afraid to report it. What kind of BS is this?!?!

  4. This seems like deja vu all over again, kinda reminds me of Morris Brown and Drumline, Mo Brown was riding high in the movie and then poof they were gone!

  5. Only those HBCUs that have strong leaders in their administration and on their boards can survive the constant financial and political challenges that face HBCUs today. Unfortunately, finding and retaining this level of leaders is one of the biggest challenges at HBCUs.

    While we are agonizing over the challenges at Bethune Cookman, let’s pay tribute to all the leaders at other HBCUs that have not only survived but thrived in this environment.

  6. The Interim Prez and Bd. Chair must go in order for B-CU’s credibility to be restored. They both were too tied to Former Prez Edison Jackson, who fiscally raped B-CU. I urge the stakeholders to continue to call for a forensic audit of all finances. I am confident you heads will roll, including the current leaders’.
    How can we ever raise money to get out of this quagmire when the currently the shoe were critical players in Jackson’s corrupt administration. ? We need to wake up and smell the coffee or our B-CU will be an afterthought.

  7. There is no doubt that the B-CU Board Chairwoman does not know what she is doing, and she is bringing on people like Dr. Rene Forbes who was once dismissed from B-CU. She adds NO value to the Board and is faculty at our local competitor Daytona State College. The Board Chairs is attempting to stack the board with her close personal friends to push forward her own personal agendas. The Board Chair frequents the campus so often that one would think that she is an employee. This clearly a violation of SACSCOC. At Commencement she made the statement that she likes to snoop and it obvious through her intimate involvements with the campus. As alums, we must stand up and do something against this egregious behavior. She was a part of shady deals with former President Jackson. Follow the money trail and you will see her involvement including some very suspicious things with the Embassy of Hope! It is well know that the Board Chair is promoting Vice President Jason Glenn as the next president of B-CU! Hell will freeze over before we allow that to happen. Jason Glenn was dismissed from Embry-Riddle for inappropriate behavior and has brought that same mess to B-CU. He’s incompetent and is all talk and no work. He’s not only sleeping with employees in the cafeteria but also two members of this own staff and had an affair with a certain recently dismissed married person from Business Affairs. It’s very interesting that the Board Chairwoman would support someone with someone with such a tainted reputation. Makes you clearly question her motives and real intentions for B-CU. Our current chairwoman is clearly not the right person to do this job! What is she seeking to hide? Judge Grimes is finally leading with integrity but he needs strong board to support with integrity to support the great work that he is attempting to do.

  8. There is no doubt that the B-CU Board Chairwoman does not know what she is doing, and she is bringing on people like Dr. Rene Forbes who was once dismissed from B-CU. She adds NO value to the Board and is faculty at our local competitor Daytona State College. The Board Chairs is attempting to stack the board with her close personal friends to push forward her own personal agendas. The Board Chair frequents the campus so often that one would think that she is an employee. This clearly a violation of SACSCOC. At Commencement she made the statement that she likes to snoop and it obvious through her intimate involvements with the campus. As alums, we must stand up and do something against this egregious behavior. She was a part of shady deals with former President Jackson. Follow the money trail and you will see her involvement including some very suspicious things with the Embassy of Hope! It is well know that the Board Chair is promoting Vice President Jason Glenn as the next president of B-CU! Hell will freeze over before we allow that to happen. Jason Glenn was dismissed from Embry-Riddle for inappropriate behavior and has brought that same mess to B-CU. He’s incompetent and is all talk and no work. He’s not only sleeping with employees in the cafeteria but also two members of this own staff and had an affair with a certain recently dismissed married person from Business Affairs. It’s very interesting that the Board Chairwoman would support someone with someone with such a tainted reputation. Makes you clearly question her motives and real intentions for B-CU. Our current chairwoman is clearly not the right person to do this job! What is she seeking to hide? Judge Grimes is finally leading with integrity but he needs strong board to support with integrity to support the great work that he is attempting to do.

  9. “We have seen the enemy and he is us”
    Black leaders must stop playing games and start leading or HBCUs will no longer exist

  10. @Anonymous you’re absolutely right. As an alum of BC-U, now is the time for any trustee from Jackson’s administration who voted for that dorm deal to step down. A true leader takes responsibility for their own actions. At what point will the Board, and specifically Chairwoman Carter-Scott, hold themselves accountable? This mess of a dorm deal started well before President Grimes got to BC-U. He inherited this mess that the Board of Trustees created so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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