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Band from Alabamas oldest historically black college to play at inauguration

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Talladega Colleges band will march at Trumps inauguration on 20 January, but online petition is circulating requesting the band withdraw from the parade

The marching band of Alabamas oldest private, historically black liberal arts college has accepted an invitation to perform at Donald Trumps inaugural parade, organizers said.

Talladega Colleges band will march at Trumps inauguration on 20 January, although other historically black schools such as Howard University, which performed at Barack Obamas first inaugural parade, have said they will not be marching at the event.

We were a bit horrified to hear of the invitation, said Shirley Ferrill of Fairfield, Alabama, a member of Talladegas Class of 1974.

I dont want my alma mater to give the appearance of supporting him, Ferrill said of Trump on Monday. Ignore, decline or whatever, but please dont send our band out in our name to do that.

Ferrill began an online petition this weekend requesting the band withdraw from the parade. On Tuesday morning, it had more than 500 signatures. For Alabamas oldest historically black college to give him a stamp of approval, I say no, and that is why I put the petition out there, she later told the Guardian.

Another petition was started in support of the band playing in the inaugural parade, AL.com reported. We believe that this parade is not about politics, its about seeing firsthand the process of a transition. Its not to support of no political party its about the experience that the students will obtain, the petition reads in imperfect grammar. We are not one-track thinkers and believe everyone is entitled to the own beliefs. However we are in support of The United States of America. Some 93 people have signed the petition so far.

The move has lit up Talladega Colleges social media sites with a sharp debate about the bands decision to participate in the parade. Some voiced strong opposition, while others support the bands participation.

After how black people were treated at Trumps rallies, youre going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what? Seinya SamForay of Chicago told the Associated Press. What they did is a slap in the face to other black universities.

SamForay was among dozens of people commenting on the schools social media sites.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee announced Friday that the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes was among 40 groups, including high school bands and military organizations, scheduled to perform in the parade. Some members of the Marist College band in upstate New York, also scheduled to perform at the inauguration, say they wont participate, a school spokesman said on Monday.

Ron White of Atlanta, a 1997 graduate of another historically black college, Fort Valley State University in Georgia, said he questioned why band members from Talladega should be playing all these patriotic tunes for someone who has degraded us.

At the same time, though, White said he respects the office of the president and he hopes that Talladegas band does well.

What they should do in my opinion is play that national anthem the best way theyve ever played it in their life, because youre basically saluting the country, White said in an interview.

The nations historically black colleges and universities instill in students the idea that ignored behavior is condoned behavior, said Reese Walker of Memphis, who marched in the band at Mississippi Valley State University. Thats one reason he doesnt think Talladega College should participate.

The Guardian called and emailed the colleges public affairs office, the office of the president and reached out to the school band via Facebook

A Facebook page for The Great Talladega College Tornado Marching Band wrote on 22 December that the invitation was a monumentus [sic] achievement for not only just the College and the band program but, for the entire state of Alabama! Keep us in your hearts and prayers as we vow to make you all proud!! The post has a mix of positive and negative comments.

The college was founded in 1867, by the descendants of the slaves who helped to build its first building, according to historical documents on the colleges website.

The decision to march in Trumps inaugural parade has also sparked controversy at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. The band will be marching, but some of its members will be staying home, school spokesman Greg Cannon said Monday.

They dont want to have anything to do with the inauguration or President Trump and we respect that, and thats their right, Cannon said.

Were not looking to put anybody in a spot that conflicts with their personal beliefs, he added.

About six to eight Marist band members among more than 100 have said they wont perform, Cannon said. He said there wont be any repercussions for those students, and they will still have a place in the band when it returns from Washington DC.

On Monday British singer Rebecca Ferguson said she would accept an invitation to perform at Trumps inauguration on condition she be allowed to sing the anti-lynching anthem Strange Fruit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us