CONTROVERSY: TheTalladega College Marching Tornadoes prompted anger after confirming they will perform for Donald Trump
THE MARCHING band of a historically black college in Alabama will perform in President-elect Donald Trump's Jan. 20 inaugural parade, despite a barrage of criticism, the school's president has said.
Talladega College President Billy Hawkins confirmed an announcement made by the Presidential Inaugural Committee on December 30.
News that the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes had been invited to perform at Trump’s inaugural parade ignited passionate debate on the campus and around the nation.
However in the first official statement from the school on the issue Hawkins said students can learn lessons from the experience that cannot be taught in a classroom.
"We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade," Hawkins said. "As many of those who chose to participate in the parade have said, we feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power."
However others such as Shirley Ferrill of Fairfield, Alabama, a member of Talladega's Class of 1974, disagreed saying she “doesn't want her alma mater to appear to be supporting Trump”.
Another opponent of the plans, Seinya SamForay of Chicago, said in an interview: "After how black people were treated at Trump's rallies, you're going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what?"
But others say the inauguration will be a unique and worthwhile trip for the students.
"It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band," Talladega College alumnus and Hampton University President William Harvey said in a statement: "It will be a teachable moment for them to understand the importance of supporting the leader of the free world, despite one's political viewpoint."
Harvey added: "After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda."
Talladega bills itself as Alabama's oldest private, historically black liberal arts college.
The college traces its beginnings to 1865, when two former slaves pledged to provide a school for the children of former slaves of the community. The school was founded two years later, in 1867, according to historical accounts on its website.
Talladega is among six college bands, at least eight high school bands and several military groups that have been announced for the parade lineup so far.