By Cora Jackson-Fossett
The 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade presented by Honda included a considerable number of African Americans in the world-renowned production.
Tournament of Roses president, Gerald Freeny, headed the distinguished list of Blacks in his role as the top executive of the 130th parade and the fabled Rose Bowl. Following behind him was 10-time Grammy Award-winner, Chaka Khan, who served both as the grand marshal and featured performer.
According to Freeny, Khan’s musical legacy – highlighted by hits such as “I Feel For You” and “This is My Night” – emphasized the parade’s theme, “The Melody of Life,” which underscores the universal appeal of music.
Chaka Khan sings a medley of her songs in the Rose Parade’s “Opening Spectacular” segment.
“Music has a unique power to transcend borders and boundaries, to travel across countries and continents,” said Freeny. “It speaks to old and young. It represents, enriches and sustains our human existence. It quite simply touches every single life on Earth.”
“This year’s theme ‘The Melody of Life’ fits perfectly into my philosophy that ‘Music is the melody of life,’” noted Khan.
Demonstrating the transcendence of music, Khan kicked-off the parade with a medley of her songs in the “Opening Spectacular” segment. Joining her were her nephew, Tyler McCrary; grandsons, Jett and Josh Khan-Corley; “Dancing with the Stars” champion Jordan Fisher and hundreds of dancers.
Also, the Grammy-winning band, Kool & the Gang, performed on the “Taste the Magic’” float sponsored by Stella Rosa Wines.
Pasadena resident, Ashley Symone Hackett participated as a member of the 2019 Rose Court. A senior at John Muir High School, she was selected from among 44 finalists to serve as a Tournament of Roses ambassador.
“For me, ‘The Melody of Life’ means that everyone has highs and lows in life, but just like in music both high notes and low notes add value to the piece, just as it would in life. Without the low times that I have experienced, I would not be able to appreciate the high moments of life that I have been blessed with,” said Hackett.
More than 200 FAMU band members performed outside First AME Church – L.A. on Dec. 30.
The parade’s 40 floral-covered floats, 18 equestrian groups and 20 marching bands from around the world included African Americans reflecting “The Melody of Life” theme. Among the performers were the LAUSD All District High School Honor Band, Alabama State University Mighty Marching Hornets (which included Pasadena native Robert Esaias Jones, Jr. as one of the drum majors), and the Florida A&M University (FAMU) Incomparable Marching “100.”
Music and “The Melody of Life” theme struck a positive chord with organizers, participants, attendees and TV viewers, said Freeny, who is the first African American president of the Tournament of Roses.
“On a personal scale, it (music) gets us through our day, it accompanies us through good times and bad times,” he said.
“It is quite literally the soundtrack of our lives. But on a grand scale, it has the ability to heal, to unite, to promote change, to bring joy and harmony and rhythm and happiness.”
City News Service contributed to this article.