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Talladega College Tornadoes

Talladega College Marching Tornadoes will perform at Trump inauguration

After nearly two weeks of silence, school finally announces a decision

The Talladega College Marching Tornadoes have formally accepted the invitation to perform in President-elect Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, the school has announced.

Miguel Bonds, the school’s band director, submitted an application for the band to perform, and Trump’s inauguration committee extended Talladega College an invitation to play, but no word came from the school until Thursday morning.

In the almost two weeks it took the school to respond to questions about whether it would participate, social media was ablaze with questions about whether the oldest historically black college in Alabama should perform and the implications of either option.

“We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” Talladega College president Billy Hawkins said in the press release. “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.”

Veronica Clark-Holland, a media consultant, was brought in by the school to help navigate through the increased media attention and told Anthony Cook of The Daily Home why there was such a delayed response from Hawkins and the school.

“The board wanted to evaluate the pros and cons and interview alumni and students, because whatever decision was made, one group or the other was going to be upset,” she said over the phone on Thursday. “The board wanted to be thoughtful in making the decision.

“Media was bombarding the campus, and things were getting out of hand. I was hired to assist the president in getting through this.”

Talladega alumnus and Hampton University president William R. Harvey wrote a letter in support of the school performing in the inauguration, which was included in the press release.

“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,” he said. “After all, the reason for being of any college or university should be to promote learning and not to enhance a political agenda.”

Talladega College will need to raise more than $60,000 to cover expenses for the trip to the nation’s capital, and a GoFundMe account by “Mbonds Bonds” was started Tuesday with a $75,000 goal by Jan. 15 to help pay for “transportation, travel, lodging and other expenses.”

The school may also receive help from Alabama Republican Executive Committee member Grady Thornton, who offered to help by contacting the “400+ members of the Alabama Republican Party” and starting the process “with a $100.00 contribution.”

Clark-Holland said she hadn’t seen evidence or heard of alumni threatening to withhold support from the school. There was an online petition started by 1974 graduate Shirley Ferrill opposing the school’s participation in the event.

Ferrill noted that a Black Lives Matter protester was punched, kicked and beaten by white men at Trump’s November 2015 rally in Birmingham.

“We have a reputation of fighting for freedom and equal rights and justice and he doesn’t stand for any of that,” she told CNN.

Ike Chukwuelue, a 25-year-old student at the school, echoed her sentiments.

“I think with Donald Trump being the type person he is, the band shouldn’t go,” he said in an interview with CNN. “Marching in that parade would basically be siding with Trump and his ideals and the way he chooses to go about politics.”

Rhiannon Walker is an associate editor at The Undefeated. She is a drinker of Sassy Cow Creamery chocolate milk, an owner of an extensive Disney VHS collection, and she might have a heart attack if Frank Ocean doesn't drop his second album.