The marching band for America’s oldest private, historically black liberal arts college has apparently agreed to perform Donald Trump’s inauguration ― triggering a storm of controversy and two rival petitions this week.
The 200-member Talladega College Marching Tornadoes feature on a list the presidential inauguration team released of entertainers scheduled for Jan. 20, AL.com reports. Other historically black schools, such as Howard University, have turned down offers to perform at the event.
Talladega College officials had yet to comment on the controversy, but news of the band’s reported participation outraged many, including graduates of the school.
Shirley Ferrill, a 1974 alum, launched a petition Monday, urging the college to withdraw from the event. “In view of his behavior and comments I strongly do not want Talladega College to give the appearance of supporting him,” she says of Trump in her plea.
Seinya SamForay was among those commenting on the school’s social media sites, according to The Associated Press. “After how black people were treated at Trump’s rallies, you’re going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what?” said Seinya SamForay to the AP. “What they did is a slap in the face to other black universities.”
Ron White of Atlanta, a 1997 graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia, questioned why Talladega musicians “should be playing all these patriotic tunes for someone who has degraded us.”
Some hit back at critics, saying the opportunity was too good for the band to turn down.
Talladega student Dollan Young has started his own petition in defense of the college band. “Its not to support of no political party its about the experience that the students will obtain,” he says in his appeal.
The college was founded in 1867 by the descendants of slaves who helped to construct its first building.
Trump’s inauguration team has struggled to attract big names to perform at the event and they’ve encountered problems with those they’ve asked to appear. The Rockettes are reportedly reluctant to perform, while Mormons are petitioning to keep the Tabernacle Choir away from the event. And singer Rebecca Ferguson has said she’ll only appear if she can sing what is perhaps the best-known song about racism in America, “Strange Fruit.”
Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, also ran into controversy when it was announced that its band would play in the parade.
A college spokesman told the AP up to eight of the band’s 100 members had chosen not participate.
“They don’t want to have anything to do with the inauguration or President Trump and we respect that, and that’s their right,” he said.