By Kellie Finch
Diversity and inclusion are key words at the heart of most ensembles’ mission statements, but one winter guard based in Atlanta, Georgia emphasizes these beliefs at the very top of their organizational makeup.
Founded and directed by Corey Hawkins, Noir Independent Winter guard aimed to foster an outlet for staff and students from around the Atlanta area to explore their passion for performing. For Noir, diversity and inclusion were a focus in the ensemble’s creation – and it can be seen from the makeup of their 2023 staff. It even inspired the guard’s inaugural show theme this season.
Building a Program
Establishing Noir had been in Hawkins’ mind for quite some time, but it took until this competitive season for everything to fall into place – gathering the necessary resources and creating a strong enough community to make his dream a reality.
In building his staff, Hawkins reached out to many of his friends across the winterguard community, putting together a team made up entirely of people of color: an intentional and meaningful decision.
“I’ve been thinking of starting my own independent guard for a few years,” Hawkins said. “The timing just seemed right when I finally got everything started, and from the overwhelming support of the current members.”
“I knew I wanted a place for Black creatives to feel like they had a safe space within the organization and to utilize their creativity when crafting the program,” Hawkins said.
When Hawkins held auditions for Noir, he received a wide turnout of interest, welcoming members from all different demographics around Atlanta and surrounding states, including Alabama. Building a truly diverse program will take time, but showing an effort to keep these ideas at the forefront of our organization will foster a much wider range of diversity of membership in the future
“With people coming from many different areas of life, the dynamic is certainly interesting at times,” Hawkins said. “But, at the end of the day, everyone is just here to have a good time and spin with their friends.”
We All Belong
Noir’s inaugural production, “Free and Equal,” combines the best parts of what the ensemble stands for: making its staff and members feel at home every time they step onto the floor at practice or a performance – making it the perfect first show for the group.
“No matter race, sex, color, etc…we all belong,” Hawkins said. “We are all free to do anything we want to do in this activity.”
When asked what other groups can learn from Noir in terms of diversity and inclusion, Hawkins’ advice was simple but impactful: Never be afraid to think outside of the box, and always consider reaching out to local resources for help and inspiration.
Hawkins’ goals for the season are to push his ensemble to grow more and more each week, and this is something the staff enjoys watching, Hawkins said. He strives to end the season with many quality, educational memories for members and staff.
Until World Championships, Noir will continue its season competing at three WGI Regionals (Knoxville, Charlotte, and Atlanta) and the guard’s local circuit, the Southern Association for Performing Arts (SAPA).
“We are just excited as an organization for the first year of Noir,” Hawkins said. “People will be pleasantly surprised to see what we have been hard at work on over the past few months.”
About the Author:
Kellie Finch is an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill pursuing her BA in Media and Journalism through the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. At UNC, she is a member of the Marching Tar Heels in the tenor saxophone section. She participated in WGI winds during all four years of high school playing the alto saxophone, where she discovered her love for music and the activity through her experiences and the people she met.