Sunday, January 25, 2009
Thoughts on Inauguration Day 2009
My thoughts on Inauguration Day 2009
When I got out of bed and turned on the television and saw the moving shadows of more than 200,000 people advance toward the Mall, it was emotional. When the still President-elect Obama later emerged from Blair House to go to church with Michelle, his wife. it felt like my heart stopped.
This was real.
This was gong to happen.
A black couple walking hand in hand for a ceremony only for presidents. She was a radiant queen. A black woman was to be the first lady. A descendant of slaves. A descendant of women compelled to wash the floors of white women; a nanny for white people's children; a likely descendant of a woman that was a victim of rape (physical and emotional terrorism). Now this formidable woman of degrees and service to her community was the face the world was to see with her husband for the next four years. When Barack walked his wife to the car, opened the door, and gently lead her in, it was just like my grandmother taught me to do. A tear dropped from my eyes. She was not his baby's Momma. They were man and woman; husband and wife; mother, father, and friends. They were love. This was who we are when we endure against what this society wants us to be and become who we truly are.
There were times when the cameras fixed on the crowd and all one could see were the people, seemingly moving and breathing as if one; it was emotional. For some reason I knew that whether it was the very view from Capitol Hill, the Smithsonian Institute where slaves were kept when southern masters came north, or the edifice of the White House itself, that the spirit of people in bondage were present everywhere. The rocks not only cried out, but the bushes and trees shouted with the spirit of slaves and the dispossessed.
It was crying time.
It was redemption time.
If you go to the footage, you could see Barack enter down the corridor leading to the portico of the Capitol where the ceremony was to be held. He suddenly seemed to be different. It seemed like the weight of our past and futures suddenly caught up to him. He was focused on his immediate task but it seemed that he was already bearing the weight of history. He was St. George at the instant before he was about to fight the dragon. He was David, about to sling a rock at Goliath. At that moment, as he paused to meet History, it was as if he stopped being Barack and became, Mr. President.
What must have been his thoughts when he first saw the undulating mass of two million people on the Mall? I know what were my thoughts. I began to reflect upon those that would have loved to see such a day but were killed because of their dedication to "freedom and justice for all." What might have been the scene if President Obama emerged from the Capitol with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his arm as he escorted him to a place of honor next to his family?
What about the many who worked and suffered in silence? Their dreams were hardly born except through the lives and love of their family. I dreamed of how wonderful it would have been to be at the home of my grandparents, people that raised me, watching the inauguration events unfold. My grandfather, a refugee from the oppressive Thurmond family in Edgefield, SC., would be in his favorite, black reclining chair waiting with glee. A self-educated man, he likely would have gotten up early that morning to read everything he could about the President-elect. He and my grandmother (a native of North Carolina) likely would have returned to that place in their memory about how badly Negroes (their favorite word for us, once upon a time) were treated. We probably would have prayed that morning for President Barack Obama and his family---and ourselves.
While the ceremony was moving and dignified, something was missing. Leave it to an old, country preacher from Atlanta to provide the benediction; a fitting coda to the event. I knew Rev. Lowery from when I was an Atlanta University graduate student. I enjoyed attending his church that adjoined the Morris Brown College campus, an historically black school in the city. Perhaps because of his time as a major figure in the civil rights movement, he always included "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a song written by James Weldon Johnson, "the Negro National Anthem," in the church service. He also always delivered a sermon that was infused with the Gospel but inflected with his wit and the wisdom of black folk. Still, when he said: God of our weary years, God of our silent tears ... My very soul began to soar.
"Thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met thee, lest our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee. Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land."
The waters from my eyes were a steady flow. I had to hear the ideas, music and lyrics that long nourished Black America. I wanted to here something that "the Old Ones" might acknowledge. I wanted something that Mahalia Jackson might want to sing and shout. I wanted to here something that might have steadied Martin's frame when he stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave us his dream. I wanted to here words to make us pause and consider that though Martin and Malcolm X, Ida and WEB, Frederick and Harriett, and countless others did not indeed make it with us that we were true to their dreams for us, as they were for ours. I wanted to hear something that let our martyrs know that we were thinking of everyone else who struggled in our name,
Now it is time for new dreams to come true and new voices to sing.
Graciously contributed by:
James Daniel Steele, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice
c/o North Carolina A&T State University
1601 E. Market Street
Greensboro, N.C. 27411
Office: 232 Gibbs Hall
Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 135 countries worldwide. Get your FREE, pdf format report on CD or via e-mail, "If You Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: firstname.lastname@example.org