The marching band of historically black Talladega College has confirmed that it will play at the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump after a week of controversy and duelling petitions from students and alumni.
“We feel the inauguration of a new president is not a political event but a civil ceremony celebrating the transfer of power,” Talladega College President Billy Hawkins said Thursday when confirming that the school’s Marching Tornadoes band would perform.
When the band appeared on a list of inauguration performers released by the Trump transition team on Dec. 30, controversy immediately erupted. Petitions were circulated both for and against; Shirley Pratt Ferril, who graduated from Talladega in 1974, wrote that “in view of [Trump’s] behavior and comments I strongly do not want Talladega College to give the appearance of supporting him.” The petition she started has about 2,100 signatures.
A petition supporting the performance was started by current Talladega band supporter Dollan Young. He wrote that the performance is about “seeing first hand the process of a transition. It’s not to support [a] political party it’s about the experience that the students will obtain.” That petition has just over 400 signatures.
Elton John refused to perform at the inauguration. A member of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir quit rather than do it. And members of the Rockettes have reportedly refused to perform. British pop singer Rebecca Ferguson, who is black, reportedly agreed to perform only if she could sing “Strange Fruit,” a 1930s song decrying racism that includes the line, “Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze.”
Talladega College was founded by former slaves in Talladega, Alabama 149 years ago.