The melodic chants, the loud drums that sound like thunder, the young toddlers, 70-something-year-old elders and every age in between marching and dancing through Baltimore streets.

The scene always fascinates me.

Each and every time I see the greatness of our marching bands I’m reminded of how much I love them and the summer months when they perform the most. The legacies of these bands date back to the 90s, first becoming popular in West Baltimore and later in other Black communities. I remember as a young girl seeing my homeboys strut in their uniforms and watching my closest girlfriends sweat out their perms as they performed down the streets of neighborhoods. I wanted to be just like them.

Now, as an adult, I work as a photographer who has documented these marching bands and witnessed the growth of the young people. Many started off as toddlers and remain in the band as teens, and sometimes as adults leading a section in the band. Their dedication to the craft, to their band members and the band legacy is admirable.

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Marching bands also provide a welcoming space for all and give teens and Baltimore’s youth a place to learn responsibility, accountability and how to be active in their communities. Watching them parade through the city makes me feel like a proud mom.

Baltimore All Stars Marching Band (Shan Wallce/The Baltimore Banner)

I go back and forth about which bands are my favorite. Ultimately all of them, but I do love Baltimore All Stars and Baltimore Go Getters.

I have watched Baltimore All Stars work these streets for years, leaning on the generational talent, like Miss Johnnie, who’s in her 70s and leading the pack, always holding the sign and representing the long legacy of this band.

I also always enjoy Baltimore Go Getters for their purple uniforms and drum section, which are my favorite musicians in the band. Every time they perform it’s so lively. I look around and see Baltimoreans standing in their doorways, on their porches, sometimes on trucks, dancing and enjoying the band as much as me.

Dynasty Marching Unit (Shan Wallace)

Other notable marching bands include:

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The Baltimore Twilighters are always energized as they strut through the city in their green and gold. Their drum major demands respect and attention from everyone who’s watching. I love the leadership of Destructive Divas; they represent proudly as the advanced junior section of the band.

The Royal Squad Marching Band always comes correct. They recently celebrated their first parade and I can’t wait until their next one.

Mass Destruction always puts on a good show. I especially love their uniforms! They switch it up at every performance. My favorite custom outfit was the lime green sequin set, with matching pants and tops. Also, in May, when they wore all white with strips of blue and lime green sequin across the shirts, matched with mini white tophats. The outfits are always a surprise. I’d argue that they’re the best-dressed marching band in Baltimore.

Dynasty Marching Unit (Shan Wallace)

Lastly, the Dynasty Marching Unit, which was formed in July 2010, is always consistent. Every time I see them, they are full of smiles, eager and ready to put on a show like it’s their last. My favorite thing about them is they are always camera-ready.

As you can see, I’m a supporter and super fan of marching bands. As a photographer for The Baltimore Banner, I wanted to tell readers about a culture that is very important to me, but most definitely to the residents and city of Baltimore.

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Baltimore GoGetters Marching Band (Shan Wallace)

The best way to keep up with our many marching bands is to follow them on their social media accounts, especially Instagram. And go watch them perform at festivals, parades, sporting events and neighborhood gatherings throughout the city.

Marching bands throughout the city energize our neighborhoods and carve out a space that is especially dedicated to Black neighborhoods and talent. Watching them I am so prideful and happy to be a Baltimorean.

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Using visual imagery to tell stories, document, and reflect the versatility of Baltimoreans — politically, socially, truthfully, and imaginatively — in order to help articulate the voices of the community and prioritize care and attentiveness. Her work has been supported by The New York Times, The Baltimore Museum of Art and others.

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