The University of Georgia marching band is making a change to its usual Saturday routine for football games at Sanford Stadium.
Brett Bawcum, the Georgia Redcoat Band’s acting director, notified university officials that the band will no longer perform “Tara’s Theme” from the 1939 film “Gone With The Wind” after UGA football games. Instead, the band will perform “Georgia On My Mind.”
“We are ending performances of ‘Tara’s Theme,’ effective immediately, and replacing it as our signature with ‘Georgia On My Mind,’” Bawcum wrote in a letter to the Redcoat Band community. “Though the tradition has been under discussion for months within the band, the current social climate has highlighted the urgency of addressing it and made me conscious of the message that could be interpreted by delay.
“To be clear, the issue with the tradition is not the motivation of those who have embraced it, but rather the possibilities it may limit in those who haven't. I value tradition, but I value creating a welcoming environment much more."
“Tara’s Theme” is the opening music from “Gone With The Wind,” a film set in the antebellum South that portrays stereotypes of people of color. In a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed written after “Gone With The Wind” was included in the new HBO Max service, Academy Award-winning filmmaker John Ridley wrote that the film “ignores the horrors of slavery” and “perpetuates some of the most painful stereotypes of people of color.”
HBO Max subsequently pulled the film from its catalog on a temporary basis, saying it would return with “context and framing.”
In his letter, Bawcum wrote that “public institutions of an honorable society must afford black people the same respect others can assume” and cited the band’s decision to remove “Dixie” from its name in 1971 as an example of helping to “correct an environment that is unfriendly for black students.”
“As the national conversation surrounds persistent disservices to and abuses of Black persons by those expected to merit the public trust, our attention returns to the environment we create and how we might serve justly,” Bawcum wrote.
Bawcum also addressed Black members of the Redcoat Band in his letter and vowed to “continue working to extend opportunities to more Black and minority students.”
“I can’t imagine you chose to join an overwhelming white band with anything less than reservation, though I understand through our conversations that the sensation was nothing new to you,” Bawcum wrote. “It is very important to me personally that you understand that you not only matter, but that you are irreplaceable.”
You can read his letter in its entirety below:
Georgia to review names of campus buildings
Earlier Wednesday, the University System of Georgia announced it has formed an advisory group to “review and study the names of buildings and colleges on all USG [University System of Georgia] campuses and report to the Board on any recommended changes.”
“USG’s mission is knowledge, and this action today is a step toward addressing how communities understand the history and context involving our campuses,” USG chancellor Steve Wrigley said. “While the review may be one part of a much broader discussion, I believe it is essential to advance how we serve students and all Georgians. I am grateful to the group’s members and look forward to receiving their recommendations.”
Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart was among the several campus leaders to voice support for the initiative.
“As both a UGA alum and the head football coach, I fully support the USG Board of Regents and chancellor’s decision to form this committee to study these important issues,” Smart said. “This is an important first step in the right direction to help us evaluate our history and work to bring us closer together.”
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