April 7, 2022
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Akeem Hunt Steps onto a New Stage
Montgomery, Ala.—Some people play along to the beat of others, and some people step up to lead the band. According to Akeem Hunt ’22, a good leader does both. When Akeem began his college years, he didn’t set out to become the first Black drum major of the Marching Scarlet & Grey; or among the leaders of a complete band culture change during his senior year; or among the men who would be founding members of the first Black men’s fraternity to charter on campus; or among the first students to major in criminal justice. Nevertheless, Akeem has become a groundbreaker in every realm of Huntingdon College life.
“For me, breaking new ground just gives people who look like me a chance to come to Huntingdon and believe they can also break new ground,” he says, offering advice to those coming after him. “You just have to stay focused and determined and keep God first and everything will be okay.”
Raised in Pratt City, to the west of downtown Birmingham, Alabama, Akeem’s heritage—actually, you might call it a “hair”-itage—is a long line of barbers and beauticians. His grandfather owns and operates Hunt’s Beauty and Barber Shop, a comfortable place where Akeem’s mother and two uncles (among other family members) lend their talents and their advice to clients in that everyone-in-the-neighborhood-is-family sort of way. On other neighborhood streets, drugs have driven crime and poverty to far less than comfortable levels. Although he has learned the family trade and will one day inherit the barber and beauty shop, Akeem says his calling is to the streets. What he has witnessed in his neighborhood led him to choose Huntingdon’s criminal justice major soon after it was added in 2019 with the goal of a career in law enforcement. After he graduates next month, Akeem will enter the Montgomery Police Academy for training and then join the Montgomery Sheriff’s Department. His ultimate dream is to become a field agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“Coming from Pratt City has made me aware of the different issues that we have, especially in neighborhoods like mine,” says Akeem. “I feel like there’s a gap between law enforcement and civilians. I just want to help fill that gap. There’s a lot we don’t know about each other. I also feel a calling to protect and serve.”
As a child, Akeem found safety and solace in his cocoon of family and in the world of music. In the sixth grade he picked up a saxophone and has never put it down. “Music was a way for me to calm my nerves and escape from everything around me,” he says.
Akeem was recruited to play in the Marching Scarlet & Grey from Minor High School, where he served as assistant drum major in the 150-strong band and where musical genres ranged from hip-hop to gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues. He stepped into the small but mighty Marching Scarlet & Grey, where, at the time, the music was mostly 1980s pop-style or patriotic tunes. “I processed it,” says Akeem. “You can’t stop change—it’s always coming. So I processed it and kept going.”
Indeed, he did. Saxophone bopping to the beat, he marched right to the front of the Marching Scarlet & Grey, lending his savvy saxophone skills to the Huntingdon Winds Concert Band, BallHawks pep band, and Huntingdon Jazz band along the way. He was promoted to assistant drum major for the MS&G in 2020–2021. Then, when band leadership changed in 2021, new band director Brandon Howard and assistant band director Tavaris Marlow rewarded the sparkle and pep in Akeem’s step with the coveted title of drum major—the first Black student-musician to serve in that role. As the Huntingdon band began to play music that bridged Akeem’s high school days with this college days, he transformed the role of drum major from one exclusively expected to lead and conduct to doing so while performing as an integral part of the band’s show.
As the drum major, Akeem is responsible for making sure the band is together and that equipment, uniform, and music are present from head to toe. “I have to be on the same page as the directors,” he explains. “The drum major role is one of enforcement, governing over the band and making sure everything stays on schedule.”
By its very nature, the act of marching and creating a unified beat brings students together no matter how different they are in other ways. Huntingdon musicians form their own fraternity, both literally, through Kappa Kappa Psi band fraternity, and figuratively, through kinship and shared experience. In fact, band members are not unlike members of an athletic team or of a Greek fraternity or sorority. In his sophomore year, when Akeem learned about Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., wanting to build a chapter on campus, his interest was piqued.
Akeem is his parents’ middle child, with an older sister who teaches fifth grade and a 10-year-old brother. But as a founding member of the Gamma Rho Mu chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., Akeem now has brothers on campus and all over the world. Phi Beta Sigma endured a rocky start, with COVID-19 shutting down the campus during Spring 2020, when the group planned to charter. Despite the delay the charter was signed June 19 and celebrated in the Fall 2020 term, the first ever charter of a Black fraternity at Huntingdon. Akeem and good friend Hakeem Filmore ’20 were its initial two members and were later joined by three more inductees. As is his pattern, Akeem stepped up to be the chapter’s first president.
Of all the ways he has been involved at Huntingdon, Akeem says music is the guiding note connecting his experiences. “Music paved my way to where I am now. I came here on a band scholarship and I would never have had the opportunities I’ve had if I hadn’t gotten that scholarship.” As interviews for the next drum major begin next week and Akeem’s thoughts move beyond graduation, he says, with gratitude, “My Huntingdon experience molded me into the man I am today. It taught me time management and that there are consequences for every action. It taught me that to be a great leader you have to be a follower first. You have to know who to follow, what to do, and what not to do. A good leader doesn’t try to take all the glory. You have to lift up others. Be humble and grateful.”
Huntingdon College is a coeducational residential liberal arts college of the United Methodist Church offering more than thirty undergraduate programs of study and 21 NCAA-Division III athletic teams. Huntingdon recently added a Master of Athletic Training program, the College’s first graduate program since its founding in 1854. The Department of Fine Arts offers majors in music and P–12 music education and performing ensembles in which students from any major may be involved, including the Marching Scarlet and Grey marching band, Huntingdon Winds Concert Band, BallHawks Pep Band, Huntingdon Jazz Band, Concert Choir, and various chamber ensembles.