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XULA marching band making Mardi Gras parade debut Sunday

Now in its second year, the marching band at the nation's Catholic HBCU is set to make Carnival history in New Orleans.

Darren Rodgers Jr. directing the Xavier University of Louisiana Golden Sound (Rogers/Facebook)

Xavier University of Louisiana, the nation’s Catholic HBCU, has long been known to produce great musical talents and countless figures important to the local culture of New Orleans.

One thing the school hasn’t done? Have a marching band featured in a Mardi Gras parade. That is, not until this year.

XULA’s Golden Sound, the newest show in town, will take to the streets on Sunday, February 12, with the Mystic Krewe of Femme Fatale—leaders of one of the dozens of Carnival parades in the lead-up to Fat Tuesday, the region’s biggest day of the year.

“XU will be representing! It is our time to continue to shine,” said student Keith Wilson Jr., a jazz studies major who serves as the Golden Sound drum major.

Founded in 2019 as a pep band, the group added marching to its repertoire two years later, in partnership with the school’s athletics department. Taking on its new name and status, the Golden Sound thereafter participated in XULA's Homecoming celebration for the first time—a significant moment, given the unique status of marching bands at HBCUs, where they often carry much of a school's culture and national reputation.

The XULA marching band was originally announced in 2019, with a scheduled debut the following year. The COVID-19 pandemic soon derailed those plans, with XULA operating virtually for much of the year-plus after the outbreak.

Even so, an announcement from the school earlier this year, ahead of the band’s Mardi Gras season debut, notes that the group’s growth has been steady under director Darren Rodgers Jr.

“The Golden Sound is currently composed of 65 elite members and has committed to offering partial band scholarships for its chosen participants,” the school said.

“The Band will create and participate in HBCU festivities around campus while participating in the rich culture of New Orleans’s parades, which celebrate the heritage, history, and pride of Louisiana excellence.”

On January 23, the band announced its invitation to march in Femme Fatale, alongside the Golden Starlettes, XULA’s dance team. Also participating will be the Human Jukebox of Southern University in Baton Rouge, one of the most historic HBCU marching bands in the country.

(@heav.v.creates/Instagram)

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Femme Fatale krewe, which was the first Carnival organization founded by and for Black women. According to their website, the group usually has roughly 750 riders and will this year use 28 decorated floats.

The bulk of their nearly four-mile route runs along historic St. Charles Avenue between Napoleon Ave and Canal Street, stretching from Uptown New Orleans to the edge of Bourbon Street downtown.

Marching under the theme “The Gems of Femmenation,” the krewe will be led by parade captain Dr. Takeisha Davis, as well as parade queen Monique R. Jones, a Black Catholic. Both women are graduates of XULA.

The celebrity grand marshal will be Bernette Joshua Johnson, who retired in 2020 after serving for seven years as the first-ever Black chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.

The Femme Fatale parade will roll at 11am CT from the intersection of Napoleon Avenue and Magazine Street.


Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger and a seminarian with the Josephites.



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