We saw the true meaning of the Magic City Classic when the Alabama A&M band spelled out “Cupcake”

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2019 Magic City Classic. Alabama A&M University Marching Band spelling out Cup Cake in memory of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

The mood at the Thursday press conference for the 78th Annual Magic City Classic was somber.  The evening before, after a week of Amber Alerts and searching, Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, a little 3 year old girl who had been abducted from a birthday party was found dead in a landfill.

Birmingham was heartbroken.

Remember Her Name

Mayor Randall Woodfin addressing the Magic City Classic press conference on October 24, 2019. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

When Mayor Randall Woodfin  addressed the Magic City Classic media, the the big game, concerts and parade were the furthest thing from his mind. He spoke passionately about his hurting city, the police department, the countless people who searched for the little girl and the family.

He then implored the community and all the press assembled to do one thing. Remember her name.  Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney.

Each speaker, including the sponsors of the Magic City Classic and football coaches, mentioned the little girl in their statements to the assembled press.

In honor of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney, Birmingham City Hall is lit up in purple. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

As one should expect, the focus quickly did turn toward the game and welcoming the nearly 200,000 visitors to the largest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) event in the nation.

A Wet Weekend

Despite drenching rains on Friday and Saturday, the events surrounding the Magic City Classic went off without a hitch.  There was the Code the Classic at Innovation Depot where Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University students vied to win a pitch competition.

Alabama A&M University and Alabama State University participants at the Code the Classic, presented by Vulcan Materials hosted by Birmingham Business Alliance and The YARD. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

The parade was sort of dry for the first 30 minutes, but at least when it did rain it wasn’t a downpour.

Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama marching in the Magic City Classic parade. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

The Classic’s legendary tailgating went on.  And of course, there was the big game, which eventually ended in a triple overtime win for Alabama A&M.


Along with all the gatherings and events, one of the biggest highlights of the Magic City Classic is to watch the bands at halftime. Some folks even attend the game more for the marching bands than the football.

Halfway through Alabama A&M’s Marching Maroon and White’s show, they changed up the music, an obvious break from their regular routine.  The band was playing  the song “Jesus loves me.”

Suddenly, they marched into place, spelling out “Cupcake.” Purple balloons were released.

Tears were shed.

You could noticeably feel the city of Birmingham collectively heal.

The Alabama A&M University band had heeded Mayor Woodfin’s call to remember Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney’s name.

True Meaning of the Magic City Classic

After witnessing the marching band spell out Cupcake on the Legion Field, a fan turned to me and said, “that’s the true meaning” of the Magic City Classic.

He is right.


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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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