Arts and Culture Community

Several days ago, Theresa Dowell Blackinton, a 1999 graduate of Sacred Heart Academy, saw an announcement that the school’s madrigal choir would be performing during inauguration festivities in Washington, D.C.

“And I just got to thinking more and more about my experience at Sacred Heart, the values Sacred Heart proclaims to follow and being the mother of two girls as well,” she says. “And thinking, there’s just no way that they are going under Sacred Heart’s name.”

Dowell Blackinton proceeded to write an open letter and petition to the school, asking the administration to reconsider having the choir perform at the nonpartisan Kentucky Bluegrass Ball.

The letter reads, in part: “This has nothing to do with partisanship, with Republican versus Democrat, or with feelings related to any policy views held by the president-elect. This has everything to do with ethics, with what Donald Trump stands for as a human being.”

For Anjuli Kapoor, a 1999 Sacred Heart graduate, the protest has everything to do with Trump’s own words.

“It does have to do with the rhetoric, the very scary rhetoric, that is coming out of our unfortunately president-elect who has boasted of sexually assaulting women,” says Kapoor. “There is something very wrong about that.”

Kapoor is helping collect signatures for the petition. As of Wednesday they have just more than 120, the bulk of which, Kapoor points out, are from members of the Baby Boomer generation, many of whom vividly remember the 1970s women’s movement.

Mary Sheridan, a 1968 graduate, is one of them.

“Well, when I first received news that the choir was going to perform, I really was speechless,” Sheridan says. “I was completely taken aback simply because I could not understand how an all-girls school could possibly celebrate the inauguration of a man to the presidency who has so little regard and so little respect for women.”

She says this stands in contrast to the values she was taught during her time at Sacred Heart.

While Sacred Heart Academy’s administrators declined a request for an interview, they did confirm that the arrangements for the performance were made in May 2015 — before Trump announced his candidacy for president.

They also provided a statement via email on Tuesday afternoon.

“Sacred Heart Schools feels that to deprive our choir of an opportunity to perform in this capacity, an opportunity that is unanimously supported by the choir members themselves, would not serve to empower them. Doing so would discourage them and negate the countless hours of preparation for a Kentucky-based event that accompanies the American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Participation in this event is not an endorsement of the president-elect, his words or behavior.”

The choir’s decision to perform at an inaugural event is one that in past years may not have caused much of a stir. But in this time of profound political tension, responses have demonstrated just how strong the divide appears to be.