The marching band at Talladega College is set to perform during Donald Trump's inauguration. Billy Hawkins, president of the historically black college, confirmed their decision on Tuesday. In his statement, he made it clear he was more concerned with honor and unity than playing politics.
"We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade," Dr. 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."
Still, Hawkins was steadfast in his decision. Although petitions were formed to keep the band from performing, counter-petitions rose up to protest the idea that they should skip out on such a huge honor.
One Talladega alum, Hampton University President William R. Harvey, supported Hawkins with a statement on the school's decision.
"It will be a wonderful learning experience for the students in the band. 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 said. "After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda."
Since the announcement, one GoFundMe page has popped up to help fund the band's trip, which will be another large obstacle for them to overcome. School officials said they'll need to raise more than $60,000 to cover travel, lodging and other expenses for the trip.
While current band members are divided about what to do, Harvey maintained that Talladega College's presence will be a historic and symbolic representation of one of America's greatest traditions.
"The college and its band are celebrating the peaceful transition of power," he said. "A hallmark of America's democracy and swearing in of a new president."
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Cover photo: Shutterstock / Timothy Holle.