Travel expenses for Talladega College’s Marching Tornadoes, the HBCU band slated to play at President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration Friday, Jan. 20, have sufficiently been covered, thanks to the college president’s recent appearance on Fox News‘ “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Donations for the band to travel to Washington, D.C., topped $500,000 this weekend, AL.com reported. A GoFundMe campaign for the band launched just two weeks ago, and since then, more than 10,000 donors from across the U.S. have chipped in to raise $595,497 for the Marching Tornadoes to perform in the president-elect’s inauguration parade.
Weekend donations far surpassed the band’s original goal of $75,000, but almost $300,000 of those donations came after Talladega College President Billy Hawkins made an appearance on the “O’Reilly Factor” Thursday night, the local news site reported. Hawkins called the public response to his appearance and controversy surrounding the band’s performance at Trump’s inauguration the “single-greatest fundraising effort” for the historically Black college.
“It’s been phenomenal,” he said. “And we’ve had several other individuals before this who were ready to make out a check.”
The college president added that he hoped this would encourage others to contribute to the school’s future fundraising efforts, as his students are in need of new band uniforms and scholarship opportunities, among other things.
About 225 members of the band are expected to participate in this week’s trip, AL.com reported, but the road to the inauguration hasn’t been smooth. The Alabama college suffered severe public criticism as news spread of its plans to participate in Trump’s swearing-in festivities. Critics shook their heads in disbelief as they struggled to understand why a historically Black college would agree to perform at the inauguration of a president-elect who has disrespected African-Americans on multiple occasions.
“After how Black people were treated at Trump’s rallies, you’re going to go and shuck and jive down Pennsylvania Avenue? For what?” Chicago resident Seinya SamForay told the Associated Press earlier this month. “What they did is a slap in the face to other Black universities.”
Atlanta resident Ron White, who graduated from Georgia HBCU Fort Valley State University, told the wire service he didn’t think Talladega’s Marching Tornadoes “should be playing all these patriotic tunes for someone who has degraded us.” Still, he wished them the best of luck.
AL.com reported that some Talladega alumni argued that having the band perform at Friday’s inauguration was tantamount to an endorsement for Trump. Hawkins said he and his family have even received death threats for allowing the band trip.