Pastors with starched clerical collars offer solemn prayers. A dozen politicians deliver rehearsed talking points. Blessings are offered. Spirituals are sung. And a crowd of mothers, assorted clergy, and restless schoolkids sway anxiously back and forth on the National Mall at the rally before the March for Life. But when the actual marching starts, that somber demonstration is transformed into a dance party when the marchers pass the St. Augustine High School band.
Students and nuns and congressional staffers dance down the street as the marching band belts out Titanium by David Guetta in front of the Natural History Museum. An Orthodox priest does something that, from a distance, looks like the Charleston. It was as lit as a protest of modern genocide could be.
With their purple and gold dress uniforms and for more than an hour, the full 100-member marching band is definitely the center of attention. They are used to it. They’ve performed for politicians, professional sporting events and one pope. But this is their first time playing for the March for Life.
“Coming to Washington D.C. was so important for us because it ties into the Black Lives Matter movement,” says Father Henry Davis. “We are an all-black, male school and we wanted our boys to have a connection with life,” he shouts next to a tuba section blasting out their rendition of Bet You Won’t by Level. “It was important for our young men to take a stand for those who cannot speak for themselves.”
A long way from home, the band set out from New Orleans on Sunday with 171 students and another 20 chaperones crammed into a four-bus caravan. They made stops in Birmingham, Cincinnati, and Detroit before finally making it to Canada.
“We’re marching for freedom,” Davis shouts. “We’re following the path of the Underground Railroad.” The walking orchestra sees little difference between the tyranny of the plantation era and the proliferation of Planned Parenthood. “Unborn black lives matter,” as Davis puts it.
Across the street, the less musical mill about with some teachers on the steps of the Smithsonian. They aren’t in the band but they are just as on board with the modern Underground Railroad. “One-hundred-and fifty years ago life wasn’t respected,” says school president Kenneth St. Charles. “Now the issues have changed. It’s gone from slavery to Black Lives Matter and abortion.”
Indeed, the abortion industry isn’t color blind. Planned Parenthood and company have not been shy in their pursuit of African American woman facing crisis pregnancies, often setting up shop in predominantly black neighborhoods. According to the Centers for Disease Control, that approach has worked: 35 percent of aborted babies are black, even though blacks are only about 12 or 13 percent of the population.
But while the group is passionate about the issue, they seem surprisingly apolitical. When asked what he thought about the satellite address delivered by President Trump, junior Clarence Sterling pauses before answering “I’d rather not say.” When asked about being a pro-life black man though, Sterling doesn’t miss a beat: “we’ve got to protect life,” he says. “You know, from womb to tomb.”
“My mother could’ve easily aborted me,” the sixteen-year-old says, making everything instantly personal. “I’m thankful she didn’t or I wouldn’t be here today. So I would like other people to defend life. Give other people a chance too.”
Demographics are trending his way. Millennials, like the tens of thousands of high-school and college kids who drove through the night to march in the morning, are generally more pro-life than their parents, and the number of abortions are down nationally.