A marching band for a historically black college has accepted an invitation at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
The marching band for Alabama’s Talladega College–known as the Great Talladega College Tornado Marching Band–applied to perform at the inauguration months in advance, before it was known who the next president would be. But Miguel Bonds told Independent Review Journal that he “was still happy when he learned that Talladega was selected.”
There are 100 members in the band, and eight have chosen not to perform in the inauguration.
Many on the left are not pleased with the marching band’s decision to perform in the inauguration. Nikki Finney, a Talladega alumnus who now chairs southern studies and creative writing for the University of South Carolina, had this to say:
“The news that Talladega College has forgotten its steady and proud 150 years of history, by making the decision to not stand in solidarity with other clear-eyed and courageous people, academic institutions, and organizations, protesting the inauguration of one of the most antagonistic, hatred-spewing, unrepentant racists, has simply and unequivocally broken my heart today. Historical Black colleges are duty bound to have and keep a moral center and be of great moral consciousness while also teaching its students lessons about life that they will need going forward, mainly, that just because a billionaire — who cares nothing about their 150 years of American existence — invites them to a fancy, gold-plated, dress-up party, they have the moral right and responsibility to say ‘no thank you,’ especially when the blood, sweat, and tears and bodies, of black, brown, and native people are stuffed in the envelope alongside the RSVP.
“This should have been a teachable moment for the President of Talladega College instead it has become a moment of divisiveness and shame. Bags of money and the promise of opportunity have always been waved in front of the faces and lives of struggling human beings, who have historically been relegated to the first-fired and the last-hired slots of life. It has been used to separate us before. It has now been used to separate us again.”
There is also a petition circulating that is calling for the Talladega College marching band to pull out of the inauguration.
“In view of (Trump’s) behavior and comments, I strongly do not want Talladega College to give the appearance of supporting him,” said Shirley Pratt Ferrill, a Talladega alumnus who started the petition.
Others are more receptive to the marching band performing at the inauguration. Another petition is being circulated in favor of it.
“We believe that this parade is not about politics, it’s about seeing first hand the process of a transition,” the petition reads. “It’s not to support (any) political party, it’s about the experience that the students will obtain. We are not one-track thinkers and believe everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. However, we are in support of the United States of America.”
Talladega College began in 1865, as two former slaves sought to establish a school for former slaves. The school was originally called Swayne School after the Freedom Bureau’s General Wager Swayne, who provided aid to the school. In 1869, Alabama chartered the school as Talladega College. It is ranked as one of the top 200 schools in the country.