BANDS OF THE SOUTH
5th Quarter is an archival based mini-series by Russell Hamilton and Blvck Vrchives creator, Renata Cherlise, highlighting the best of southern Marching Band culture. From elaborate field shows to intense fanfares, band members leave it all on the line for bragging rights. Join in as we explore this legendary phenomenon of the South.
5th Quarter: Bethune Cookman
As part of the series, Renata Cherlise explores the legacy of Bethune Cookman and its lineage within the Daytona Beach, Florida community.
Renata Cherlise (2019)
“Mary McLeod Bethune’s dream of establishing a school of her own finally became real when she opened the doors of Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Girls in 1904 with five students. She believed that education was the most important step for African-Americans to have better lives, and so her school was her first step toward this goal. By the time of Bethune’s death in 1955, the school merged with the local Cookman Institute to become a high school, then a junior college, and then an accredited four-year college named Bethune-Cookman College. Today, it is now a university and the only Historically Black College and University(HBCU) founded by a woman.”
“Born on a farm near Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune, the 15th child of former slaves, rose from humble beginnings to become a world-renowned educator, civil and human rights leader, champion for women and young people, and an advisor to five U.S. presidents.
Education was the first step in her remarkable journey. The young Mary McLeod worked in the fields alongside her parents and siblings, until she enrolled at the age of 10 in the one-room Trinity Presbyterian Mission School. There, she learned to read, and, as she later noted, the whole world opened to me. She went on to study at Scotia Seminary in North Carolina and Moody Bible Institute in Chicago with the goal of becoming a missionary. When no missionary openings were available, she became a teacher, first at the Haines Institute in Augusta, Georgia and then at the Kendall Institute in Sumpter, South Carolina, where she met and married Albertus Bethune. The dream of opening her own school took Mary McLeod Bethune to Florida first to Palatka and then to Daytona Beach.”
Excerpt from Our Founder - Dr. Bethune
In the early 1900s, Daytona Beach was a small town in rural Florida. It was also segregated. Its African-American population worked primarily on the nearby railroads and lived in tight-knit neighborhoods filled with shops, churches, and other small businesses.
"Blacks lived on the mainland, west of the railroad tracks that run parallel to U.S. Highway 1; whites lived in the beachside neighborhoods across the Halifax River. The evidence of that segregation remains today. Blacks accounted for nearly one-third of Daytona Beach's population of 62,000, according to 1990 census data. Yet on the peninsula, blacks accounted for less than 1 percent of the beachside's 17,000 residents. There's no record of a city law barring blacks from the beach, but there was no need for one."
Excerpt from Orlando Sentinel: Blacks Recall Segregation in Daytona by Derek Catron (1998)
“The night before the election the honking of horns announced the arrival of the Ku Klux Klan at the school. When Bethune went to a window, she saw that all the street lights near the campus were dark. She made out some 200 robed figures walking toward the school led by a Klansman carrying a fiery cross. The Klan entered the school grounds and some of the children began to scream in fear.
Bethune had all the buildings' lights darkened. Then with the school in darkness she ordered the outside lights switched on suddenly.
"Let them know we’re home," she said.
Engulfed in bright light, the Klansmen stopped. They had become the ones who were being watched. Then the students began singing, "Be not dismayed whateer betide, God will take care of us."
The Klansmen realized they had intimidated no one. They left.”
Excerpt from: Sun Sentinel, Up From Hell’s Hole by Stuart Melver (1997)
After Bethune merged her school with Cookman Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, it became co-educational in 1923.
The Florida Classic
”The Florida Classic is more than just a football game and more than an in-state rivalry. It is now the largest football game between two historically Black Colleges in America, surpassing the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern in New Orleans as the top attended game in NCAA Division I-AA as well as the nation’s largest football game between two Historically Black College/University (HBCU) schools. Since its inception in 1978, the game has now seen over 1.9 million spectators attend the game (1,992,648).
A Sunshine State rivalry dating back nearly a century and an Orlando institution for 21 years and counting, the Florida Blue Florida Classic is more than just nation’s largest annual HBCU football game — it’s a celebration of sports, family, music and culture that is woven into the fabric of Central Florida.
The first matchup between Florida A&M University and Bethune-Cookman University took place in Tallahassee in 1925. Through 73 meetings thus far, the Rattlers hold a 50-22-1 series lead, thanks in large part to FAMU’s early success — including a run of 25 wins in 26 games between 1930 and 1972, the final game in that stretch serving as the final meeting at Welch Memorial Stadium in Daytona Beach.”
Excerpt from The History and Tradition of The Florida Classic
BETHUNE COOKMAN AND THE COMMUNITY IMPACT
a personal reflection of Renata Cherlise and her family’s roots in Daytona Beach, Florida
As a housekeeper working at the Lincoln Motel, my maternal great-grandmother, Estellar B. Graham, purchased her first home on 223 College Park Drive in 1968. This was close to the time that my grandparents purchased their first home on Cedar Park Drive — where Auntie, Mom, and Uncle Gilbert lived.
My great-grandmother lived just a couple of houses down from the intersection of College Park and Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd. — a street that lived up to its legendary name, lined with small Black-owned businesses who catered to not only the residents of the community, but the students and faculty at Cookman as well.
By the 1970s, my grandmother relocated to Jacksonville, joining other family members who’d already began migrating to north Florida. However, my great-grandmother remained in Daytona.
By the time that I arrived in 1982, and the years following, weekends were often filled with trips back and forth between cities — 45 minutes on a really good day, while summers meant at least a week-long stay. I have vivid memories of 223 College Park, a green house, without air conditioning and no video games to help pass those long summer days. The backyard had a chicken coop with a hen who laid big, brown eggs. To the right of the coop, was a vegetable garden with big leafy collards. In hindsight, it’s apparent that my great-grandmother’s priorities were not superficial but rather, of sustenance, and lessons in survival.
But the summer afternoons — drums, horns, and other instruments slipped through the heat and passed through the windows of 223 College Park, filling my great-grandmother’s living room with music. The Wildcats Marching Band practices were definitely one of the highlights of my days. We danced and created our own routines to songs as the maroon and gold further embedded itself into my DNA. I was a Wildcat before I was even born.
By the late 90s, my great-grandmother joined us in Jacksonville, Florida. She was getting older and the trips back and forth could not keep up with her health. In various ways, she finally succumbed, and upon her passing in 1999, her home was torn down. And while an empty lot remains, those memories are buried deep in the soil as we prepare for the next generation to lay the foundation — building upon her legacy.
great-grandmother visiting us in Jacksonville, Florida (1988)
The Florida Classic in Tampa, Florida (early 90s)
My parents living it up at ‘The Classic’ representing The Bethune Cookman Wildcats.
Personal archive of Renata Cherlise