BJ's Walk for Hope

This story was photographed and written by Jim Gerrish and Al-Quadir Marsh. For reasons explained below, Al-Quadir could not write the entire story himself as originally planned, but you will find his words below in RED with his photos all marked. Mine are in black and my photos are unmarked. Jim Gerrish

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

It had been cold most of the week, but today, Saturday, May 15th, was hot and sunny. The East Orange Unified Marching Band was getting ready to go to Elmwood Park and perform for BJ's Walk for Hope and Asthma Research event. The band members showed up bright and early, put on their uniforms and got into formation outside Cicely L. Tyson Community School in East Orange, New Jersey.

Inside the school, band parents had organized the uniforms by name and number and were quickly passing them out to the students as soon as they arrived.

Before they could head outside to line up, the students also had to tune their instruments. In the past, many students had teachers who would tune their instruments for them, but Mr. Goode insists that each student learn to tune his or her own instrument so they will learn how it is done and also so they begin to listen to themselves and one another as a well-tuned band instead of a collection of instruments thrown together. This takes a great deal of time, but Mr. Goode is patient and eventually the band is in tune. Even if an instrument goes out of tune in the field, the student will hear it and quickly bring it back into pitch with the other instruments because of this training.

LR- Al-Quadir Marsh, Ms Saez, ??? Photo by Jim Gerrish

Uh-oh! Ms Saez is missing one of the banner carriers, so Al-Quadir Marsh, my lead photographer, is quickly outfitted with a band uniform and given a new job of carrying the school's banner at the head of the parade. He will still be able to take some photos, but I will have to fill in with the rest and our plan to make Balloon Animals for the kids has to be scrapped.

As the band begins stretching exercises in the background, the new banner carrier takes his place wondering what he has gotten himself into.

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

Elmwood Park is not far from Cicely Tyson School, so the band walked across town with the help of Band Parents who acted as crossing guards. The heaviest instruments were loaded into a car and sent ahead to the park. I got to ride so I could keep taking photos.

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

Most of the band parents also walked to the park beside the band, including Ms. Saez, the Band Parent Association president.

Al-Quadir got to ride with me across town so he could continue to take photos out of the car window, but when we got to Elmwood Park, the ride was over and Al-Quadir once again lined up with the band to make a grand entrance into the park.

This is when I really began to miss my chief photographer because by the time I parked my car, the band had already entered the park and all I could do was follow behind them.

Fortunately, I caught up to them in time to make the videos you will find below. The people walking on the park's race track are participants in the Walk-aThon. Every lap they make around the park increases the donations their sponsors have made. The band will now begin to play to show their support for the event and to take the weary walkers' minds off their tired feet. The video below contains two excerpts from their marching band concert.

This video is also available on YouTube HERE

As the band plays, Ms Saez passes out bottles of cold water for each band member. This is part of what your contributed band funds are used for at each parade or event, so the entire band thanks YOU for sponsoring them in their endeavors. Please continue to help support YOUR East Orange Unified Marching Band.

When their performance ended, the band marched off the field and again I hurried to catch up to them. I was glad to rejoin my chief photographer, who packed up his banner and took the rest of the photos for this story.

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

On the way home, as tired as he was, Mr. Goode carried one of the small children on his shoulders. The child obviously enjoyed the piggyback ride and was sorry when it was over, but Mr. Goode was just relieved to get everyone back to the school safely.

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

For the final stretch to the school, the band got back into formation and marched to the beat of the drums. Then they found out that they needn't have hurried.

Photo by Al-Quadir Marsh

The doors were locked as usual and no one was around to let them in. Mr. Goode solved the problem by driving around the school to another entrance to which he had access, and finally let them in. Meanwhile, the students began removing their uniforms and turning them in so they could get home and enjoy the rest of the bright sunny Saturday. I learned that carrying the banner is not the easy job it seems to be and I will think twice before I volunteer to do it again! Riding a unicycle, juggling, and making balloon animals (as well as photographing the band and writing stories about them) will be my only jobs from now on!

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