AUSTIN, Texas - As the start of the fall semester is approaching, several Longhorn band members say they won't be performing The University of Texas at Austin's official alma mater song "The Eyes of Texas."
A growing number of students of various ethnicities are supporting this movement hoping the song will eventually be removed completely.
The official alma mater song and unofficial fight song is currently in the center of controversy because of its racial undertones. It's been long criticized for its connection to minstrel shows with characters in blackface in the early 1900s.
"Once the football team released their statement, those conversations were happening well before, we didn't have the position to really be able to bring that forward, we're just the band. We do as we're told, kind of," Judson Hayden says.
In June dozens of UT student-athletes released a statement calling on the University and Texas Athletics to address racial injustice, among their list "The Eyes of Texas".
Hayden, a junior majoring in communications, is a saxophone section leader and founding member of LHBlacks, a new organization within the Longhorn band committed to amplifying black voices and providing a community for its black members founded this year on Juneteenth.
"I'm actually really happy with how our directors have been handling this. They put out an open poll asking everyone who would submit one what they think of the song," Hayden said. "They've had other music departments think. They're supportive of the students and what the students have to say and I think that doesn't get looked at a lot."
Hayden says the Longhorn band is the biggest organization that plays the song for the largest amount of people most frequently, and their voices need to be heard.
All the members of LHBlacks agreed they will not be performing "The Eyes of Texas" at all this fall and several other band members of various ethnicities are following their lead.
"Seeing that a lot of them or majority of them are in solidarity with the rest of LH Blacks on this matter is really reassuring. To see people say if it makes you feel uncomfortable, let's not play it," Hayden says.
LHBlacks says they're hopeful for change that extends far beyond the song.
"We want to get in contact with high school band directors in majority-minority schools and underprivileged schools. One of LHBlacks' goals is to increase the black population not just at UT but within the Longhorn Band. Of those 400, there's only 10 black students in the Longhorn Band," Hayden said. "We want to establish those relationships and take in potential members."