Unlike other performers, the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes aren’t going to let politics get in the way of their opportunity to take part in a historical event. Going against the wishes of alumni, the marching band from this historically black college in Alabama will be marching in the Inauguration Parade in Washington, DC.
Historically black colleges and universities have built a strong and competitive marching band tradition. High energy drill and dance along with flawless percussion and face melting brass draw more fans to some football games than…well, the football game. Some of the schools, like Talladega, don’t even have a football team and the band is the focus of school pride. It is good to know that these kids won’t be deprived of the experience of participating in the Inauguration Day Parade.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee included Talladega’s band on its list of participants in the traditional inauguration day parade.
But the invitation to Washington, D.C., stirred angst for some — because of President-elect Donald Trump’s divisive campaign rhetoric.
Talladega was founded by former slaves 150 years ago and was the first college in Alabama to accept African-American students.
A debate erupted on campus and around the nation as to whether Talladega should go. Yesterday, college president Billy Hawkins announced the Marching Tornadoes will participate.
It’s an exciting experience for band members.
Band member Darrious Hayes agreed with the decision. He’s been in the band since 2014, his freshman year, and sees the trip to the inauguration as an opportunity. He says this will be his first visit to the nation’s capital.
“The alumni don’t want us to go because of Trump,” says Hayes. “But we’re saying it’s not because of Donald Trump. It’s because of the experience.”
Naturally in our current boycott-happy culture, some people wanted to make the band sacrifice its historic opportunity.
Participation in this inauguration is not popular for some Talladega alums like Shirley Ferrill, a 1974 graduate. She says what Trump said on the campaign trail is not consistent with the values of Talladega College.
“To have them take part in anything that smacks of support for Donald Trump makes me sick,” says Ferrill
Ferrill organized an online petition and gathered 1600 signatures from people who wanted the college to refuse the invitation. Thankfully the administration did not punish the kids in an impotent protest.