Bands and other marching units in big parades, like Inauguration Day every four years, are determined months in advance and sometimes more than a year in advance.
So when an all-female dance team or a marching band from a historically black college got the word they would participate in the parade on January 20, they had no idea or expectation that Donald Trump would win either the Republican primary or the general election.
The student body at Texas State University was bitterly divided by racial threats and protests after Mr Trump’s election, but that was just the prelude. Its all-female dance team was selected to perform in Mr Trump’s inaugural parade. The irony is thick.
There’s a bit of history in it too. Lyndon B Johnson graduated from Texas State, with its gorgeous San Marcos campus, before becoming the president who would usher in the Voting Rights Act and other civil rights legislation.
On the group’s Facebook page, some people flat-out told them they should pull out, given Mr Trump’s misogynistic comments that appeared to support sexual assault. But what people don’t understand is that the Strutters were set to perform in the parade regardless of who won the election. Comments about what they “should” do are quite off the mark, because many groups, especially large high school bands, require members to pay nonrefundable deposits on the travel arrangements months and months before the trip.
— Tupelo Band (@TheTupeloBand) January 5, 2017
- A $125,000 fundraising effort began post-election at Mike Pence’s alma mater
So what the Strutters should do is take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to perform with their friends on a national stage, travel to Washington, perform in other events, and strut their stuff. Never again will these women get an opportunity like this, and political statements are better directed at politicians, not at performers, booking agents, etc.
In addition to the all-female dance team from Texas, the marching band from Alabama’s oldest private, historically black liberal arts college accepted an invitation to perform in the inaugural parade, the Associated Press reports.
The acceptance by the band from Talladega College to participate in the parade caused the school’s social media sites to light up with comments from alumni and college supporters.
“I don’t want my alma mater to give the appearance of supporting him,” one commenter was quoted as saying, referring to Mr Trump. “Ignore, decline, or whatever, but please don’t send our band out in our name to do that.”
The college was founded 150 years ago by the descendants of slaves. “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,” the New York Times quoted Billy Hawkins, the president of the college, as saying.
For any other president, that might be an acceptable response, but after Mr Trump’s divisive campaign, some people just don’t want to hear that coming from the president of Talladega.
“After how black people were treated at Trump’s rallies, you’re going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what?” another alumnus was quoted as saying. “What they did is a slap in the face to other black universities.”
In the end, Mr Hawkins is wrong: This is an inauguration, and every single thing about it is political—including, especially, trying to cover up the fact that it’s political. We grant the band its right to participate and wish them well, however, and a great performance. But the descendants of slaves who founded Talladega must be looking at this with bewilderment.
In all, about 40 groups, including high school bands and military organizations, were scheduled to perform in the parade, but some will perform with ranks that are thinner than usual. For example, Marist College, a private liberal arts college in Poughkeepsie, New York, said their band was invited but several members have decided not to participate.
“They don’t want to have anything to do with the inauguration or President Trump, and we respect that and that’s their right,” Marist spokesperson Greg Cannon told The Associated Press. “We’re not looking to put anybody in a spot that conflicts with their personal beliefs.”