Forward Cities leaders, donors and special Durham guests got a real surprise and treat the night of the Rick House dinner on December 10 during our Durham convening. When our guests arrived they were greeted by the Hillside High School Marching Hornets Band (over 40 kids playing brass instruments and drums plus beautiful dancers dressed in their shiny blue costumes). To say the least, the band created a spirit of celebration and excitement that permeated the room and soon enough all of our leaders from New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland, Durham, and beyond, were swaying to the beat and making their own "second line" to the music.  

Also special is the history that this school has and to know that this local institution has produced many of Durham's most important and famous leaders, in addition to its present and future entrepreneurs and innovators. Some of them, like DeJuan Tillman, who works on clinical trials at Quintiles Inc., reminisced about their experiences as students at Hillside and with the Hornets Marching Band. "Going back to when I was young and Durham still had Christmas parades, I remember Hillside Marching Band vibrating down the street…Most people attended the parade just to see Hillside and followed them down the street" said DeJuan. Darian Harris, who also went to Hillside HS and is now a Career Development Coordinator in the Durham public schools, said that after the football team would score a touchdown: "I would often look up in the stands and smile because I could see my classmates playing their instruments with all their heart and dancing with so much passion and energy… it was contagious."

Of the more than 300 historically black high schools that once operated in the state of North Carolina before desegregation, only five remain today, with Hillside HS in Durham being the oldest. Hillside's marching "Hornets" band and its drum line have a tremendous legacy that has brought them invitations to national parades and other major performances around the country including the Edison Pageant of Light Parade at Walt Disney World in Orlando Fl., an appearance on "Oprah," a scene in the movie "Inkwell" and an ever growing base of support from students, alumni and their families.  

And the experiences these kids are having at Hillside will mold them and stay with them forever, as Principal Jerome Leathers of the Southern HS of Energy and Sustainability said: "I was a member of the Hillside Marching Band during my 9th and 10th grade years as a drummer, and the memories that were collected will stay with me forever…Hillside taught me to love myself and not to be afraid of the outside world, because there is a place for me as well."

Under the direction of their new and accomplished band director, Mr. Daryl White (who taught music in New Orleans and Washington DC before coming to Durham) the band has grown and the music program now includes: Marching Band, Jazz Band, Concert Band, Pep Band and Stage Band for the school's theater dept. Under Mr. White's leadership, the Hillside HS marching band has 64 band members and has already won 1 competition in 2015 and was featured in The Atlantic magazine on December 17, 2015

Right now Mr. White and the Hillside HS kids and their families are raising money for the Hornets Marching Band's new uniforms and field trips (this includes chartering buses to take the kids to their performances and competitions).  If you would like to make a donation to this great Durham NC educational institution, please make your check out to the Hillside High School Marching Band, and mail it to:  
Hillside High School
Attention: Mr. Daryl White, Marching Band Director
3727 Fayetteville Street
Durham, NC 27707

You will be investing in Durham's future leaders and entrepreneurial pipeline if you do! As Thomas Long who was Co-Captain of the Hillside basketball team that won the NC State Basketball Championship in 1965, and who later traveled the world playing for the Harlem Globetrotters can testify: "My experiences at Hillside made me more of a confident person. My tenure there taught me to believe in myself, my capabilities and the possibilities of becoming whatever I truly wanted to."