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Volume 117 No.



JANUARY 24, 2009 - JANUARY 30, 2009

Barack Obama, joined by his wife Michelle and daughters Malia and Sasha, takes the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts to become the 44th president of the United States at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Jan. 20.

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President Barack Obama
By Zenitha Prince Washington Bureau Chief WASHINGTON— Barack Obama was feted Jan. 20 in an exuberant blend of verse, voice and song in a ceremony that made him the official 44th president of the United States. The event was unlike anything anybody had seen both in its scope and spirit.

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The sun had barely made its appearance and already more than 2 million had packed into the National Mall, as far as the Lincoln Memorial and stretching into the streets, where those who were turned away celebrated anyway. The size of the crowd seemed to belie the brutal cold. Twenty-three mile-per-hour winds made 30 degrees feel like 19 and sent shards of ice straight to the bones. Yet, there was hardly a murmur of complaint. Some jogged around in circles, marched on the spot, huddled under large blankets in groups or bore the cold with stoicism. It seemed like a powder

keg of excitement was keeping them warm, prompting, at regular intervals, thundering cheers of “O-ba-ma! O-ba-ma!” and the frantic waving of

heaven now,” she added, even as she bounced around in barely controlled glee. “I’ve been in D.C. for two days and the things that I’ve seen— White, Black, Asian just

shuffled along in the teeming crowd, supported by his son, Brian, who encouraged, “One step at a time, dad.” “Words can’t express how he’s feeling now,” the

“The event was unlike anything anybody had seen both in its scope and spirit.”
thousands of flags. “I’ve been here since 3 o’clock this morning—it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” declared Dawn Sutherland of Los Angeles, one of the lucky ones who had a ticket and got into the fenced-in ceremony site. “I can die and go to coming together peacefully; just seeing the vibe and what we have done together and the hope he’s given to all of us, it’s just awesome.” Tuskegee Airman Merrill Ross, of Kentucky, was also there. Legally blind and suffering from some imbalance, the 89-year-old younger Ross said of his parent, “because we never thought we’d see a Black president.” That excitement was not just relegated to ordinary folks. Some among the entertainment world’s Black Continued on A5

Copyright © 2009 by the Afro-American Company

AP Photo

President Barack Obama Union Station - Ground Zero for Inaugural Visitors
Continued from A1 elite were just as awestruck by the occasion. Actors Denzel Washington and Hill Harper—a longtime friend of the new president—exchanged a hug and firm hand clasp that revealed much of the river of emotion flowing beneath the surface. Later, Washington said he was struck “speechless” at his first-hand witness of this defining moment. Media maven Oprah Winfrey and hip-hop moguls Sean Combs and Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, who was accompanied by superstar wife, Beyonce and her sister, Solange, were also in attendance, managing to look fly even in the cold. Actress Angela Bassett, of What’s Love Got to Do With It fame, said she was “fine” despite the cold. “It’s a great day,” said the entertainer, who had campaigned for Obama during the elections. Smokey Robinson, decked out in a long Black fur coat, agreed. “This is the first time an elected official or an appointed official or one who inherits that spot from one nation has been celebrated by the world,” said the Motown legend, who also said the day marked a realization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s hopes for the country. King’s memory was invoked throughout the ceremony. In her speech, delivered after a musical prelude by the United States Marine Band and the San Francisco Boys and San Francisco Girls choruses, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said, “Many will mark this moment as the time the dreams that echoed across the nation from the Lincoln Memorial (where King made his ‘I Have a Dream Speech’ before a crowd of thousands in 1963) finally reached the walls of the White House.” And, as he made the invocation, Pastor Rick Warren declared that surely, “Dr. King and a great cloud of witnesses were shouting in heaven,” at the coming of this day. It is a day that would not have been the same without another Black icon Aretha Franklin, who also put her stamp on the day, performing “My Country Tis of Thee.” Later, the quartet, Itzhak Perlman on violin, Yo-Yo Ma on cello, Gabriela Montero on piano and Anthony McGill on clarinet performed “Air and Simple Gifts,” arranged by composer and arranger John Williams for the occasion. As the ceremony wore on, the atmosphere continued to feel more like a large fair than a solemn occasion. Lawmakers, too, were as buoyant as children—palling around and waving to onlookers; snapping photos and screaming for their pictures to be taken. New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin said the day meant a lot for his city, whose tragic story is well documented. “I know President Obama pretty well,” he said. “We’ve talked about New Orleans; he’s visited us and he’s committed to doing whatever it takes to fulfill the unfulfilled promise that President Bush made to us.” And many among the media also eschewed even a semblance of that sacred journalistic tenet of objectivity, displaying Obama buttons and hats and fighting to catch a glimpse of the president. “There he is!” one man cried when Obama finally stepped out onto the Capitol’s balcony to take his oath of office. No. 44 seemed just as anxious—or nervous—jumping in to repeat part of his oath before Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. was quite through. Obama’s oath did not go smoothly but not because he was nervous – Chief Justice Roberts misread the oath. Roberts was supposed to ask Mr. Obama to repeat: “That I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” Instead, he said, “That I will execute the Office to President to the United States, faithfully.” Those nerves vanished, however, during his speech, in which he acknowledged the efforts of those Black and White forbearers who made his accomplishment possible. And, he also called on American citizens and the rest of the world to join him in addressing their shared challenges. After Elizabeth Alexander delivered her poem “Praise Song for the Day,” however, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery provided, perhaps, the funniest moment of the ceremony during his benediction. After lofty prayers that called on God for the new first family’s protection and strength for the tough challenges ahead, Lowery requested on behalf of the different ethnic groups that “Black will get back, Brown (Latinos) will stick around, Yellow (Asians) will be mellow, the Red man can get ahead, man, and that White will do what’s right.” Amen. By Devon C. Miller Howard University News Service

January 24, 2009 - January 30, 2009, The Washington Afro-American


For many, being able to witness an African American sworn into the highest position in the United States is WASHINGTON -- They traveled immeasurable. from as far away as Canada to the “This was a once-in-a-lifetime north and Texas to opportunity to witness the south, arriving at a country that only 60 Washington’s Union years ago denied our Station to witness a rights as citizens in this historic chapter in country,” said Danny American and world Boyenton of Georgia. history. “And to swear in a man The Rev. Dr. Alazar R Deas, a youth Not only was of color says a lot for counselor from New York, bides his time chatting on the phone. Barack Obama race relations in this unifying a divided country and gives me moments in African-American history. country socially and hope for the future.” Harper said it was a one-time event politically, he also Even though Boyenton “and to brought together was unable to set up his be living people who otherwise vending business on the it and not said they had no mall as he had initially doing it, A father and son make the reason to be in the planned, he was undaunted, well....” inauguration of the first Black even though his hotel was District. president a family affair. For two college students from opposite ends of the country, Sean Kennedy and Ashleigh Packard, the inauguration was the perfect opportunity to reunite. “We met here three years ago for a youth policies conference,” Kennedy Eric Matthews, a student at said. “She’s from Texas and I am from George Mason University Connecticut, so we planned a trip that and resident of Virginia would allow for us to see the whole East steals a nap. Coast and end with us being together for the inauguration.” Photos by: Zelena Williams Tourists sleeping in Union Station in preparation for the main inaugural events. outside the District. Boyenton was in high spirits and said he would not have missed this opportunity for anything in the world. Other travelers, like cousins Faith Harpe of Gaithersburg, Md., and Sandra Ford of Philadelphia, said they had a responsibility to witness such a historic event, just as their aunt witnessed the Rev. Martin Luther King decades earlier. The two said they were continuing the family legacy of participating in historic

Stuart Wilkie, a middle school teacher from Delaware, expresses his enthusiasm for Bush’s last day in office.

Robert Woodard and Vahnce Pitter, both from Miami, were determined to be present for the historic event.

Dreaming a Bigger Dream
By Alisha Stewart Howard University News Service For so many, watching the inauguration of America’s first Black president live on television just wasn’t sufficient. So, bearing the cold at 7 a.m. on Inauguration Day, Washington native 6-year-old Ciara Hargrove and her father watched from the streets along with the multitudes that descended on the capital – all the while nurturing a dream of her own. She was willing, with some urging from her father, to share it as they sought refuge from the cold in a Starbucks on a corner of D.C.’s most
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famous street – Pennsylvania Avenue. “No girl has been president,” Ciara said boldly. “I want to be the first girl.” As for how she would conduct her future administration, Ciara, who earlier had gladly talked about how she danced in a production at nearby Howard University, turned bashful. “I’ll just try to do my best,” the would-be future president said. Of President-elect Barack Obama, Ciara spoke knowingly. “He’s going to be the 44th president,” she

declared, and she was pleased, with occasional glances toward her father for approval, to share her opinions about the

“he’s trying to stop smoking.” And then her high-pitched voice rose even higher when she added, perhaps thinking

“No girl has been president…I want to be the first girl.”
man and what he represents. The president-elect is a good man, she asserted, because about her own dream, that now “maybe another Black person can be president.”

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