Since its inception in 1890, the Pasadena Rose Parade, which kicks off the annual Rose Bowl Game, has never been lead by a historically black university or college (HBCU) band – until now. With singer Chaka Khan serving as grand marshal, Alabama State University (ASU) made history as the first HBCU to head the parade.

The Rose Parade is a New Year's Day festival consisting of floral-laden floats. The parade was designated to precede the annual Rose Bowl Game, a post-season college football competition. Alabama State’s Mighty Marching Hornets is one of only two out of the 18 total bands presiding from HBCUs that will march in the California parade. The other spot belongs to Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University.

According to the Birmingham Times, viewership of the parade stretches past already impressive live audience member numbers reaching into the thousands and extends to over 70 million people from across 150 counties. 

“I think it will have a huge impact as it relates to branding for the university,” Director of Bands at FAMU Shelby Chipman said ahead of the festivities according to the Tallahassee Democrat. “Individuals will see the band name, but more importantly, (TV) viewers will see Florida A&M University, and I think that is going to start a lot of communication through the internet as well as engine searches to the university’s website.”

While both HBCUs will benefit from grand performances, ASU’s Band Director, James Oliver, wants to be sure everyone tunes in right away to catch the leading act.

“I’m telling everybody you have to catch the parade from the beginning, otherwise you are going to miss the best band there is,” Oliver said.

Oliver has reason to boast. While other prospective marchers must apply for a position in the line-up and be selectively chosen by a committee, the Mighty Marching Hornets were personally approached in request of their performance. 

“The president of the Tournament of Roses, the first African American president, reached out and asked if we’d apply,” Oliver told the Birmingham Times. “It’s a historic time, to have the very first African-American president of the Tournament of Roses, and it’s going to go down in history for ASU to have participated in the parade.”

The 2019 Rose Bowl Game was played between the Washington Huskies and Ohio State Buckeyes with the latter taking home the win.

Blavitize your inbox! Join our daily newsletter for fresh stories and breaking news. 

Now check this out:

Watch The ASU Stingettes Exemplify #BlackGirlMagic To Migos’ ‘Slippery’

HBCUs Report Major Increase In Freshman Enrollment

3 Things I Got Out Of My HBCU Experience That You Can’t Get At A PWI