The marching band at Talladega College, the first HBCU in the state of Alabama, has been invited to perform in President-Elect Donald Trump’s inaugural parade, but reactions from social media and alumni caused them to reconsider, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But CNN reported Thursday that the Marching Tornadoes have now agreed to perform.
The president of the college, Billy C. Hawkins, explained the school's reasoning in a statement, saying "We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade. 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."
The news spread last week that Talladega College was listed among the organizations scheduled to perform at the inauguration.
One alumnus, Shirley Ferrill, who graduated from Talladega College in 1974, was so upset with the news that she started an online petition insisting that the school band “withdraw from any inaugural events for Donald Trump.” The petition had received just over 2,000 signatures by Thursday afternoon.
“I am not in favor of it, because of the posture that Trump has taken regarding black people and minorities. I don’t think that he has adequately represented minorities,” Maurice Dukes, a 1968 Talladega graduate and Atlanta resident, told the Journal-Constitution. “It seems like an endorsement of his stance.”
Talladega College is one of only two college marching band that has been scheduled to perform, and the only HBCU.
With less than a month now until Donald Trump is sworn in as president, there have been some issues getting high-profile guests to attend. While Hillary Clinton will be coming to the inauguration of her opponent, performers have been harder to convince. Controversy swirled around the Rockettes signing up to perform, with many saying the dancers were being forced to go even if they didn't want to—though the company now says they can choose not to perform. One black singer said she would only perform on the condition that she could sing the anti-lynching song "Strange Fruit."
In the meantime, CNN reports, Talladega hopes that the performance will bring exposure for the school and will show how far the school has come over time—from being founded by former slaves to performing at a presidential inauguration.