HBCU should have declined invitation

January 7, 2017 GMT

To receive an invitation to participate in a presidential inauguration parade is quite an honor.

So it is understandable the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes were honored to be invited to perform in President-elect Donald Trump’s Jan. 20 inaugural parade.

But it’s an opportunity the Historically Black College and University should have respectfully declined.

On Thursday, however, Talladega College President Billy Hawkins confirmed the school’s marching band will perform at the inauguration. Talladega is one of about a half-dozen college bands and at least eight high school bands and several military groups that have been announced for the parade lineup so far.

Hawkins said students can learn lessons from the experience that cannot be taught in a classroom.

“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,” said Hawkins.


Hawkins is wrong.

He should listen to opponents of the band’s participation.

Shirley Ferrill of Fairfield, Ala., a member of Talladega’s Class of 1974, said she doesn’t want her alma mater to appear to be supporting Trump.

“After how Black people were treated at Trump’s rallies, you’re going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what?” Seinya SamForay of Chicago said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Talladega bills itself as Alabama’s oldest private, historically Black liberal arts college.

According to historical accounts on its website, the college traces its beginnings to 1865, when two former slaves pledged to provide a school for the children of former slaves of the community. The school was founded two years later.

The college should not link its proud history and give tacit approval to a man who has denigrated immigrants, Muslims and women, and stereotyped African Americans as being poor and living in crime-ridden communities.

The Talladega College Marching Tornadoes should not show support by entertaining a man who advocates stop-and-frisk policies that racially profiles law-abiding Blacks and Latinos.

As a onetime leader of the “birther” movement that spread the falsehood that President Barack Obama was born in Africa, Trump sought to delegitimize the nation’s first African-American president.

Like many HBCUs, Talladega faces financial challenges and may not have wanted to antagonize an incoming president. But it should have declined the invitation with respect and upheld the principles upon which it was founded.

Talladega officials said students can learn lessons about the transfer of power by performing for Trump. That’s misguided. Students can learn invaluable lessons on integrity by not performing for a billionaire bully who used hate and demagoguery during the presidential campaign.