The band at Talladega College, a small historically black school in Alabama, will march in Donald Trump's inaugural Parade, the school's president announced today.
The announcement follows nation-wide controversy, with alumni sending dueling petitions to the president about whether or not the band should perform at Trump's inauguration. Talladega President Billy C. Hawkins said in a Thursday statement that after the Talladega Marching Tornadoes initially accepted the invitation to perform, which set off the controversy, his final decision is that the band should take part in the inauguration, CNN reports.
"We respect and appreciate how our students and alumni feel about our participation in this parade," said Hawkins. "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."
An alumna of the school started a petition for the band to withdraw from the inaugural parade after parade organizers chose the band from a pool of applicants and notified the school on Dec. 21. People in the school community and on social media opposed the college's participation because it could be perceived as celebrating Trump's election win or sanctioning the parts of his rhetoric, proposed policy and supporters' behavior that many have decried as racist.
Supporters also submitted a petition, as many view the parade as an excellent opportunity for the students and an honor for the school. Hawkins wrote in his statement that, "lessons students can learn from this experience cannot be taught in a classroom."