Houston Forward Times

25 June 2014 Written by  Jeffrey L. Boney

Steppin’ Up for the “Ocean of Soul”

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The past month couldn’t have been any better for Texas Southern University (TSU), Houston’s only historically Black college/university (HBCU), after receiving the news that several high-profiled celebrities came on board to support the university in a big way.

First, legendary radio personality Tom Joyner became an honorary member of the famed Texas Southern University "Ocean of Soul" marching band on June 20th at his "Party with a Purpose" fundraiser at Grooves of Houston. Joyner, known as the ‘Fly Jock’ was in town promoting Texas Southern University as part of his Tom Joyner Foundation School of the Month program.

In addition to his fundraising efforts at Grooves, Joyner and the cast of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" - Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown –– broadcasted their nationally syndicated morning talk show live from The Breakfast Klub that same morning.

Former TSU band members, drum majors, majorettes, alumni and community members all came out and donated to the "Road to Canton" fundraiser at both events.

The "Road to Canton" campaign was launched to assist the TSU "Ocean of Soul" Marching band in traveling to Canton, Ohio for the Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies for TSU alumnus Michael Strahan.

While a student at TSU, Strahan played defensive end and even broke a university record to become the All-Southwestern Athletic Conference’s Player of the Year and Black College Defensive Player of the Year.

He will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio August 1-3.

To honor his achievement and celebrate Tiger pride, the "Ocean of Soul" marching band will make three appearances, after being invited to participate in Strahan’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which is a part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement ceremonies.

The "Ocean of Soul" will perform in the prestigious Enshrinement Celebration by leading the TimkenSteel Grand Parade through downtown Canton, which draws a quarter of a million spectators; perform at the Fan Appreciation Tailgate Party on the Hall of Fame Campus; and play at the unveiling of the NFL Statue .

The day prior, while promoting his new movie "Think Like A Man Too" on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, actor-comedian Kevin Hart got the chance to hang out with TSU’s "Ocean of Soul" marching band and decided to help the band’s trip with an extremely generous donation.

Hart donated $50,000 to the TSU "Ocean of Soul" Road to Canton Band Initiative and those funds will be used to assist the band in their travels to Canton, Ohio this August.

While messages had previously been sent to Strahan, informing him that the alumni and friends of the "Ocean of Soul" were intent on sending the band to Canton on their own as a gift to him, the proud Tiger could not sit idly by after hearing that Hart had donated $50,000 the week prior.

Strahan, who is a proud alumnus of the university, announced Tuesday morning on ABC’s "Live with Kelly and Michael!" that he would personally double that amount and donate $100,000 to his alma mater in their mission to get to Canton, Ohio to support him at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

"I can’t let Kevin do it all alone, so I’m going to give them $100,000," said Strahan live from the set of his talk show. "TSU is my alma mater. He (Hart) gave it to the school because the band wants to come to Canton, Ohio to perform when I go into the Hall of Fame in August. We’ll get the band there and hopefully they’ll have a good time."

TSU’s Band Director Richard Lee exclaimed after hearing the news of the donations, "This is huge for our students. It gives them an experience of a lifetime."

TSU will utilize this opportunity to do recruiting and outreach as well. Invitations have been extended to all the area schools to come take a look at the university and our powerful band. The "Ocean of Soul" is comprised of students, who not only make up the marching band, but the symphonic band, jazz ensemble and the pep band. It’s a multitude of talent in that 200-piece unit.

TSU’s Associate Vice President Eva Pickens, who is leading the TSU "Ocean of Soul" Road to Canton Band Initiative, told the Houston Forward Times (HFT) that the donation from Strahan has put the band over the top in their 30-day fundraising efforts. Pickens says the goal was to raise $150,000 in 30 days and any excess monies received beyond the goal will be used for scholarships to band students.

"This is awesome," Pickens stated. "Canton will never be the same once the ‘Ocean’ takes to the streets of this grand parade. It’s a great day for TSU, the city of Houston and beyond."

Of course, TSU couldn’t have reached their goal alone.

With the support of Radio One, who saw the vision and took the lead with TSU through the Tom Joyner Morning Show; "The Party with a Purpose" event led by Joyner at Grooves; the generous donations from Kevin Hart and Michael Strahan and all who gave, TSU and everyone involved should be extremely proud and excited about the stellar representation the university will receive when the "Ocean of Soul" marching band hits the streets of Canton, Ohio in August.

You can still help support the "Ocean of Soul" marching band by donating to the "Road to Canton" campaign. Giving is easy online at https://tsu.thankyou4caring.org/oceanofsoul-roadtocanton or by check made out to Texas Southern University Foundation with "Road to Canton" in the memo line, mailed to Office of Development, Texas Southern University, 3100 Cleburne, Hannah Hall Ste. 206, Houston, TX 77004.

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