TALLADEGA, Ala. - The band from a historically black college got a big send-off as it departs Alabama to perform at President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural.
Officials held a noontime ceremony for the Talladega College Marching Tornadoes as they departed the city square in Talladega on Wednesday. But it was not without controversy, some alumni didn't want the school being linked to Trump.
"These students have earned this right, they've earned it. It will be historic for them. It will be a lifetime experience they will never forget for the rest of their lives," said Talladega College President Billy Hawkins. "It's about these students. It's not about politics."
Buses will take the band to Washington, D.C., where members will march in Trump's inaugural parade on Friday.
"I can't even believe this level of excitement for myself to anybody. I've never been to D.C. so I'm excited. On a scale from 1-10 I am at a 17," said student Alex Liddel Jr.
A GoFundMe account set up to help the band has raised more than $640,000 since controversy arose over the performance despite having a goal of only $75,000.
"If that's not a blessing I don't know what is because the man upstairs obviously wants us to go," said Liddel
The online fundraising campaign took off after the university president appeared on a Fox News show to defend the band's performance.
"There's no bigger stage in the world than to be marching down Pennsylvania Avenue," said Hawkins.
All of the extra money will stay within the band program to purchase uniforms, instruments, equipment, scholarships, and more.
The college was founded by two former slaves.