Trip to inauguration misses note

January 23, 2009 4:07:42 PM PST
It was all smiles when we first told you last week about the incredible opportunity extended to a small African-American private school on the city's southwest side. The Imani Jazz Band was selected to play at certain events for Barack Obama's inauguration.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

But after making the trip to the nation's capital and back, some parents tell us their kids were stuck watching history unfold many miles away, in Williamsburg, Virginia.

There are a lot of mixed feelings at The Imani School. Excitement because the jazz ensemble got the chance to play at the Texas Black Tie and Boots Gala. Still, there are some parents on the trip who are disappointed because they never got close to Washington, D.C.

When James White agreed to go on a trip with his granddaughter Kayla to see President Barack Obama's inauguration, he expected some tears.

"I want to cry. Excuse me," White said as he choked up.

The tears the Houston grandfather was shedding are tears of sadness, not joy. "We were on the outside looking in," said White.

Looking in from about 150 miles away from the nation's capital in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The Imani School principal was thrilled the band got to play at an inaugural gala, but for White and some other parents on the trip there was little happiness.

They said the band director, Leon Mitchison, never took them to the inauguration. Instead they watched it on television in the lobby of their hotel.

"It's very hurtful because you had young children who wanted to be part of history. And it's a hurt that you cannot ease for them. What can I do? What can I say?" said parent Yolada Westley.

The school's principal was not on the trip and only found out about some parent's concerns when Eyewitness News brought it to her attention.

"We are so sorry to hear that some of the parents were not satisfied that they were not able to get into D.C. to attend the inaugural events due to the weather and the timing," said Patricia Williams, principal of The Imani School.

Principal Williams said the band played longer than expected at the gala which caused the group to stray from its scheduled itinerary.

"Mr. Mitchison who collected their money is more than happy to give them a refund," she said.

That's little consolation for White and other parents who feel like their children missed a moment in history that can never be replaced.

Mr. Mitchison has not deposited any of the checks he collected from the families and the school has offered to return money to any parent or students that were dissatisfied.

We made attempts to reach the band director, but so far Mr. Mitchison has not responded.

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