Withstanding intense pressure from alumni and supporters, officials at Talladega College are moving forward with a plan to allow the school’s marching band to participate in the inaugural parade of President-elect Donald Trump.
School President Billy Hawkins announced the decision Thursday morning.
He called it a teachable moment for the 200-plus students in the band and for the college, noting that the “lessons students can learn from this experience cannot be taught in a classroom.”
“We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade,” 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.”
Hawkins’ decision, which was delayed several times followed several controversial days at the Alabama HBCU. Alumni of the 150-year-old school launched a petition and protested the school’s inclusion, which they saw as an endorsement of Trump.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump was viewed by many African-Americans and minority groups as having racist tendencies.
The written statement released by the college included a letter of support to Hawkins from one of the schools most powerful alums, Hampton University President William R. Harvey.
“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 apolitical agenda.”