Six-member team will perform routine to ‘Take It Off’ as they march in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade
Draconis von Trapp | Intern
This year, instead of just marching in the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade and throwing beads and condoms, members of Youth First Texas have decided to throw flags.
In other words, the YFT Color Guard will be hitting the pavement of Cedar Springs Road, with six teens marching and twirling flags to the tune of “Take It Off” by Ke$ha.
For some of the six, the parade will be their debut performance as flag throwers: Half of the team has some significant amount of drill team experience, while the other three are brand new.
Team Captain Michael Eaves has been in color guard for two years at his high school in Sachse. He leads the team with his experience and one-on-one instruction.
“It seemed like something fun,” Eaves said. “Most people do floats, so we do something different.”
He said that there was one color guard team last year, so, “Why not have two?”
From Plano Senior High, 17-year-old Celina Blanco is one of the co-captains of her color guard squad, and she takes partial command of the YFT group. Blanco has been guarding for three years and has been captain for two of those years, giving her the experience she needs to successfully help guide the newbies through a basic color guard routine.
“It’s kind of my goal in life to aid the youth and have a better upbringing, you know, more open,” Blanco says. “Being able to participate in the gay Pride parade and being able to tell my straight friends that, you know, I’m gonna be in this and I support this completely.”
Blanco was raised without any pressure over her sexuality or gender binary status, and she wants to be able to share that experience with other youth at YFT. Blanco also participates in Youth Board, a youth-run leadership program where the young people work with the YFT Executive Board to develop fundraising ideas and outreach activities, including deciding who and what goes into the parade for YFT’s group.
Also from Plano Senior High and a part of Youth Board, 16-year-old Maz-E Magnus is holding her own flag in the routine for Pride. Unlike Blanco, though, Magnus doesn’t have any previous color guard experience.
“I had gone to football games and I’ve seen them out on the football field … and I was like, ‘Eh, okay, I guess it’s cool,’” Magnus said nonchalantly. “But then Celina was like, ‘Oh, we’re doing color guard at YFT!’”
At first, Magnus just volunteered to be the music master, stopping and starting the music as needed by the team. But after watching the others spin around and toss the flags around, though, Magnus’ interest was piqued.
“I was like, ‘Oh, I can do this! Hey, can I join?’ And they agreed. It’s still fun, but it’s a lot of hard work; it’s not as easy as I thought it would be,” she confided, rubbing her shoulders and explaining the physical intensity that is required for color guard.
Another experienced color guard co-captain, 17-year-old Joeii Johnson, leapt at the chance to participate in the routine with YFT. From Lake
Highlands High School, Johnson did both color guard and winter guard, which includes higher-intensity routines and rifles and sabers as opposed to flags.
“I feel empowered,” Johnson says about his love of color guard, “when I can throw something in the air, spin around and then catch it in the right spot. I like the fact that I’m the envelope pusher; I’m the one that does things no one expects me to do.”
Johnson joined color guard when all his older brothers did contact sports.
“When [my family] sees what I do, when I toss something and I catch it … they were amazed, and I felt good,” Johnson says.
“It’s about having fun and being proud that we even went out there to do this,” Johnson said.
He acknowledged that the routine the YFT Color Guard performs in the parade on Sunday might not be perfect that day. But, he declared, they’re still going to have a good time showing their colors.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.