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Alabama Marching Band Isn’t Sure if It Should Sit Out the Trump Parade

TALLADEGA, Ala. — For a band at a tiny, little-known, historically black college, it seems in some ways to be the gig of a lifetime: a chance to march and perform at the Jan. 20 presidential inaugural parade in Washington. Some of the musicians at Talladega College here have been excited to see the capital for the first time.

But because the president-elect is Donald J. Trump, the school has become the subject of an impassioned national outcry, with online petitions, threats to end donations and a flurry of how-could-yous from alumni who feel that performing in the parade would betray the values of an institution founded by newly freed slaves 150 years ago.

Similar issues have been raised about other entertainers scheduled to perform, among them the Radio City Rockettes and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. But because of Talladega’s history, the issues have been especially intense here, with calls for the college to reverse its decision to take part in the festivities.

And beyond Talladega, the controversies raise tough questions for Mr. Trump’s most ardent critics as his presidency dawns: What is the proper response to a president as polarizing as Mr. Trump? Should the office of the president be honored, no matter who fills it? Or should there be four years of pure rejection and defiance?

And if Mr. Trump’s opponents refuse to participate in his presidency, can critics on the right do the same thing to some other president-elect in the future?

To a number of Talladega alumni, the Dec. 30 announcement that the band would march in the parade was an insult to the very principles of the college, which was established two years after the end of the Civil War. The school is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, a liberal Protestant denomination that was deeply involved in the civil rights movement, and for decades it served as an incubator for theories and practices of social justice.

Nikky Finney, a poet and Talladega graduate who is now a professor at the University of South Carolina, said in a statement this week that the band should not help celebrate Mr. Trump, whom she called “one of the most antagonistic, hatred-spewing, unrepentant racists.” In an interview Wednesday, Ms. Finney said that she could not imagine a moment when Mr. Trump, who has maligned women and Mexican immigrants and proposed barring all Muslims from entering the country, would be just another president to her.

“We cannot normalize hate,” she said, adding, “I will never become accustomed to the idea or the thought, even after the inauguration.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, an online petition calling for the band to withdraw from the inaugural parade had attracted more than 1,300 signers, some of them supporters of the college who have threatened to withhold future contributions

But a second petition, which had nearly 300 supporters, argued that the parade was not about politics, but “about seeing firsthand the process of a transition” and giving the students a chance to be a part of history. “We are not one-track thinkers and believe everyone is entitled” to their own beliefs, it stated. “However, we are in support of the United States of America.”

As the debate heated up this week on online forums for students and alumni, the leadership at the private, four-year college hunkered down to consider how best to proceed. Interview requests were rejected, and the campus police ordered reporters off the 50-acre campus.

Brief interviews with a few band members on Tuesday evening revealed a group divided. The college caters to many low-income students, and some of the band members said they had never been to Washington.

Jerome Haynes, 18, a freshman who plays the snare drum, said he hoped politics would not get in the way of playing at an inauguration. “This might be a real good opportunity for the band,” he said.

In contrast, Ronald Peterson, 21, a sophomore who plays cymbals, said he was going to talk to the director about staying home. “I feel that those who are not Republicans should not have to play for it,” he said.

The drama in Talladega, a city of 15,000 about an hour’s drive east of Birmingham, played out as black activists, including the N.A.A.C.P. president, Cornell William Brooks, were arrested Tuesday in Mobile in a civil-disobedience action at the office of Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican nominated to be attorney general in the Trump administration. Mr. Sessions, who is white, was rejected by the Senate for a federal judgeship in 1986 after he was accused of making racially insensitive statements.

To some Talladega alumni, the possibility that policies long opposed by African-Americans could now be enacted by a Republican-dominated Congress and executive branch was what made the notion of a black band marching for Mr. Trump seem so distasteful.

“There’s a great deal of fear in this country that the Voting Rights Act is going to be abolished, that the Affordable Care Act is going to be abolished, that Planned Parenthood is going to be cut off from funding, that Medicaid is going be cut off from funding,” said J. Mason Davis, a Birmingham lawyer who graduated from the college in 1956. “Don’t you understand why we have a fear of the man?”

Donavon Jackson, 24, a former trumpet player in the band who graduated last year, said that performing as part of the inauguration would be particularly special for a college of about 1,000 students whose band program is only about five years old. The school does not have a football team, which makes parade invitations all the more important.

“I’m honored to go to a school that can say they marched in an inauguration parade,” said Mr. Jackson, who received a chemistry degree and now lives in Houston. “Not necessarily for the person — and that’s not necessarily saying he’s a bad person.”

The population of the city of Talladega is divided about evenly between blacks and whites, and to a visitor, it can feel like a place where racial harmony and discord coexist on seemingly parallel planes. Whites speak with pride about the historic black college downtown — though one white person was overheard Wednesday warning of a liberal plot to foment a “race war” so that President Obama might declare martial law before the inauguration.

While some residents said the band should stay home, and others said they should attend the event in Washington, a few spoke harshly of Mr. Trump while hoping the inauguration would help the band get noticed — something the city, which was bypassed by the interstate highway system, has struggled with in recent decades.

The population of the city of Talladega is divided about evenly between blacks and whites, and to a visitor, it can feel like a place where racial harmony and discord coexist on seemingly parallel planes. Whites speak with pride about the historic black college downtown — though one white person was overheard Wednesday warning of a liberal plot to foment a “race war” so that President Obama might declare martial law before the inauguration.

While some residents said the band should stay home, and others said they should attend the event in Washington, a few spoke harshly of Mr. Trump while hoping the inauguration would help the band get noticed — something the city, which was bypassed by the interstate highway system, has struggled with in recent decades.

Bonquita McClellan, 26, manages her father’s restaurant, Big Mac’s Open Pit BBQ, near campus on West Battle Street, a thoroughfare lined with empty and near-empty storefronts. Ms. McClellan, who is black, said the disdain for Mr. Trump among her African-American peers was universal. “If anybody would have had us in concentration camps,” she said, “it’d be him.”

But she also said that the band should go and make a name for itself in the nation’s capital. “How often,” she asked, “does Talladega College get a chance to play for the president?”

Up the street at a real estate office near the 1830s-era courthouse, Randy and Heather Roberts, a white couple who voted for Mr. Trump, raved about the Talladega College band and its performance at the Dec. 5 Christmas parade. Ms. Roberts showed a video of the band on her phone, the horns blaring as a dance troupe gyrated in explosive little bursts. “They were phenomenal,” Ms. Roberts said about the band members, expressing the hope that the world could see how good they are.

Ms. Roberts, 41, said she grew up with black and white friends. Mr. Roberts, 48, said he and his wife were pleased to cater to their multiracial clientele.

But when they spoke about politics, the couple sounded like people who knew something was broken, but did not know how it might be fixed.

“It is not going to be pleasant for the next four years,” Ms. Roberts said. “It is going to be a battle.”

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/alabama-marching-band-isn%E2...

Me Here.....There is so much wrong in this article, where to begin?

First the bigotry in the article!  They have a link to the anti web petition, but none for the pro position.  That is bias, bigotry and hate!  If they were fair, there would be no links or both links!

For J. Mason Davis, I don't know where you get your fake news, but here are a few facts for you.  You can thank the GOP for the Voting Rights Act along with the Civil Rights Act.  Both were strongly opposed by the Democrats.  It was the GOP's strong support that made both law.  Barry's Death Care (Obama Care) was so badly written by lobbyists working for the Democrats, it was a failure that had to happen.  We were told by the then Democrat Speaker Pelosi, "You have to pass it to see what is in it."  Or something close to it.  Well, the GOP rightly voted against it.  Now it is failing as predicted.  So it is time for it to be repealed.  Nothing is far better than this something!  Planned Parenthood was founded with the goal of exterminating Blacks!  Margret Sauger, the founder, was an avowed racist.  That alone should disqualify it from any government funding!  Plus murdering the unborn of any race is wrong!  Medicaid isn't going to be cut.  That is just a normal lie from the Democrats to scare Americans.

For Nikky Finney, A President Trump is not what you think.  He isn't the hate filled person you think he is.  That is mostly "press" from those that hate him.  President Trump is for LEGAL immigration.  He is against those that break the law.  I am sure as a professor, you punish those that would cheat on any test you give.  This is the same thing.  As for Muslims, you have to wake up and smell the coffee.  Some are at war with us.  Their goal is our destruction and elimination.  So why is it wrong to keep out those that want to do us massive harm.  Europe is now a mess from not vetting immigrants from Muslim countries.  Some are committing horrible crimes and acts of terror.  Do you want this here?  I sure as heck don't!

The award for best fake news goes to Ms. Bonquita McClellan.  She believes that a president Trump will put her in a concentration camp!  Madam, it is the extreme left that imprisons people for race, religion, and or political views.  It was FDR here that put Americans of Japanese ancestry in camp here during WWII. 

I read this article in shock as to the how much fake news is bought as the truth. 

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Comment by Chalice on January 9, 2017 at 10:49pm

Silliness - personified!

Comment by Karen Damvelt on January 5, 2017 at 11:26am

Civil Rights was When!!!!!!!
Get Real.

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