by Heather Covington
Copyright 2009. Disilgold. Disilgold@aol.com
THE JOURNEY: PART I- Inauguration Pre-Celebration: January 20,2009-Martin Luther King National Holiday and Declared National Service Day
President-Elect Obama, Vice President –Elect Biden and their families arrived on the steps of Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, January 18, 2009 for a brief welcome event. The next day they were celebrated during “The Inauguration Eve Concert” at the Verizon Center in Washington, DC. ABC NEWS and The Disney Chanel were granted carte blanche to cover the historic event.
People wondered who would perform and like a procession, the stars came out one –by-one for the most spectacular event of the year. Brace yourself as the most thorough historian on the net shares “THE JOURNEY!” America’s Boy of Hope, Bruce Springsteen, known for his classic hit, “Born in the U.S.A.,” started the celebration and set the tone for what would be one of the most historical weeks of the millennium next to Oprah launching a girl’s academy in the motherland of Africa. “We come together filled with optimism and hope as a nation and a people…. and on this day we are inspired by the 44th president of the United States of America, Barack Obama,” glorified actor Denzel Washington stated at the steps of our nation’s capital in Washington, D.C. His eyes gleamed with a teary gloss as the little boy who was inspired by America’s Boys and Girls Club, and went on to become one of the country’s most revered African-American male authors since Sidney Poitier, recited portions of Barack Obama’s acceptance speech as the presidential elect in Chicago.
The moment was riveting and powerful as 1.4 million people stood in the cold to listen carefully. For a moment, I thought if a movie were to highlight Barack Obama’s life, Denzel Washington and his wife, Pauletta, as Michelle Obama would be perfect for each role. Martin Luther King Jr. the Third shared the designation of his father’s birthday as National Service Day. Mary J. Blige performed her rendition of “Lean on Me” from the same entitled movie made popular by actor Morgan Freeman. The warm smiles and energy from the crowd warmed the event hosted in frigid teen weather with a unified aura signifying, CHANGE HAS COME!”
Steven Correll and Jamie Foxx reminisced Thomas Johnson’s famous quotes and Thurgood Marshall’s popular quote, “This is your country, Make it Protect it, Pass it On.” I got choked up with tears upon interviewing Camille Yarbrough who told me the same words, “Pass it On!” I promised I would not cry, but maintain my composure as a teacher who would have to face her children with dignity, pride and strength on the actual Inauguration Day, January 20, 2009. People watching the ceremony were reminded of President Barack Obama’s own words with humor from the former In Living Color tv show star turned actor and singing sensation, Jamie Foxx mentioned, “If there is anyone who feels that America is not a place where all things are possible, tonight is your answer.
Bettye LaVette and Bon Jovi made a rare duet appearance to sing my mama and late father’s favorite song, “A Change is Coming,” formerly sung by the late Sam Cooke. The crowd cheered and cheered once more as Tom Hanks appeared on the footsteps of America’s home to reinstate the message of President Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, and accompanied by the riveting ensemble of a live orchestra. For a moment, Tom Hanks looked like Abraham Lincoln. The message of democracy was loud and clear as his classic statue sat in the middle of the building infrastructure with resounding strength and pride. James Taylor, John Legend, Jennifer Nettles, joined forces with the classic folk song, Shower Me With Love . The song was followed with ample applause by Vice President Joe Biden who beckoned the world to look at the glorious work of American hands representing the majesty, “Our Land”. John Mellancamp brought the house down and got folks up and clapping with a full choir.
Photos of everyday people graced the screen as “Ain’t that America” resounded in the crowds ears with joy! Queen Latifah reminded everyone of the struggles of Marian Anderson who was once rejected from singing on the opal streets of Washington D.C. It took clearance from Eleanor Roosevelt to give Marian the opportunity to sing in front of over 75,000 Americans. She sang God Bless America, now sung by all students around the country before they start their day paying homage to their country and instilling the meaning of patriotism, a quiet act often evidenced mostly with world devastation, such as the Katrina Hurricane travesty which tested American’s compassion. On this day, there were many families who pre-purchased their tickets for Inauguration Day back in early November 2007 and days before the world found out that Barack Obama had won the election, and with confidence that he would win. Families invited strangers with no place to stay within their homes in Washington.
People from around the world wanted to be a part of history. The freezing cold could not stop America. Josh Groban and Heather Headley, a very talented singer with a big voice with the grace of a younger Gladys Knight sang, My Country Tis of Thee! The ceremony became more enlivened as Will.I.AM and Sheryl Crow sang their rendition of “1 Love” accompanied by the piano accompaniment of Herbie Hancock, a classic musician of all time. Golf great, Tiger Woods, shared his dreams growing up and influence by his father as a man who dedicated his life to the military and his country. Messages from Barack Obama’s own novel, “Dreams of My Father,” clearly were reflected in Tiger Woods own reflections on how his father influenced his life.
Renee’ Fleming sang the most beautiful version of “Never Walk Alone” which I recall my high school music teacher, Dennis Bell, accompanying one of my fashion shows with a full choir who sang that song with the same love and compassion reminding us that the good in history often repeats itself. It’s a classic that I am sure struck a soft spot in all families with veterans in the military at home and abroad waiting to come home. The pre-inauguration event felt like a Hammerstein production and built up more anticipation for the big day. Jack Black and Rosario Dawson shared how former presidents like President Roosevelt stressed saving America’s sacred historical land sites and landscapes for children to visit and enjoy forever. It was incumbent for Garth Brooks to appear with his version of “ Bye, Bye Ms. American Pie”. President Barack Obama bopped his head off beat, but you could tell he knew the words.
As a product of a Kenyan born father and spending ample time as a youth in Honolulu, no one seemed to mind. Barack Obama then stood up on his feet as Garth returned his offbeat version of the Isley Brothers James, “Shout!” and a song called “We Shall Be Free!” It’s fair to say, Garth stole the show. Gotta Love Garth who said, “God bless America, God Bless the World, Love One Another!” Shelly Judd and Forest Whittaker reminded people that many artists from around the world have arrived to celebrate this day. Usher carried on the mission of the event with his rendition of Stevie Wonder’s Classic,” People,” along with Latin Music sensation Shakira and music accompaniment by Stevie Wonder himself.
It was a legendary performance that reminded folks of the Motown Era and a time period that unified music among many cultures. Samuel Jackson reminded America of Abraham’s Emancipation Proclamation and how his message influenced Rosa Parks who recognized that she had gathered the strength of her ancestors and courage to not move off the bus one day upon being asked to move to give up her seat to a white passenger. He went on to discuss Martin Luther King, Jr.’s era where everyday ordinary people came out to support his message. The hate, prejudice, bigotry, lynchings, racism and hate crimes of yesterday seem sheltered from youth’s ears today, but the pre-inaugural event reminded every American why it is so important for youth to know their history and struggle, for they won’t know how to handle tomorrow’s perils of hate toward more people for whatever reason without knowledge of Dr, Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of peace, and many will walk in harms way with trusting arms and become a subject of race related hate crimes for hate will never disappear. Better to understand the world, than be blind inside.
It was befitting for Bono to write a song in tribute to Dr, Martin Luther King called, “One Man, In the Name of Love,” and one of the biggest international stars to grace the official soundtrack of Barack Obama’s Inaugural Celebration Album. After Bon Jovi’s performance, “THAT MAN!” as McCain had slipped and thus, turned his own supporters away appeared. Barack Obama graced the stage with majestic applause followed by complete silence as tears filled the entire stretch of Washington’s capital. It was an unbelievable site to see the first African-American president don the steps of the capital. It was something like a miracle and a memory to be treasured forever as the Washington Memorial Monument stood tall and proud.
Barack Obama reminisced as far back as his ancestors and grandparents who toiled by foot to fight America’s battles. He mentioned that what gives him the greatest hope of all is “YOU,” the American People because you believe in this country. It is remarkable that just 2 years ago Barack Obama believed in change. It is as remarkable that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. predicted that There would be an African American president of the United States within 25 years. Today, President Elect Barack Obama vows to take every voice with him as he steps foot into the oval office to help CHANGE AMERICA for the better. It will take more than 1 term, but already I see that the true character of America, a great nation, has indeed come together and will be even brighter tomorrow when he takes his oath.
The pre-inaugural ceremony was adjourned with Bruce Springteen’s edition of “This Land is Made for You and Me!” President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and his daughters Sasha and Malia disappeared to begin the journey and prepare for the official Inauguration Ceremony to be broadcast nationwide on January 20,2009. I never got the name of the unsung hero who guided the crowd to the words of the next to last song with his banjo. Beyonce,’ however, ended the ceremony with her rendition of “America” sending overwhelming waves of pride from the crowd.
All of the guests of this star-studded event joined Beyonce’ who held every note and mentioned, “America we all won!” A beautiful and humbled statement for a singer looked up to by youth who earned her dream of becoming an icon in history on the shoulders of the Obama’s who were gracious to grant her wish sending a message to young girls everywhere like Malia and Sasha that they can achieve their dreams with hard work and dedication to their craft despite obstacles. The youth were able to relate.
Barack Obama, an official rock star himself, and the First Family shook hands with every guest performer as they have shook millions of hands across America. The pre-inaugural celebration was a success. Disilgold SOUL Magazine declares the week of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday as “BARACKAMERICA WEEK.”
January 21, 2009- Inauguration Day 2009
On January 21, 2009, I woke up bright and early with the mission in mind to become “An Ambassador of Change and Hope” as millions of American’s planned to do on this glorious day. Like my kindergarten students, I would be able to witness President Barack Obama, the first Black president, inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. I was prepared to find a radio station that syndicated live footage since schools block live streaming feed until viewed for content. This was understandable.
However, my school was able to fill its auditorium with students to witness live coverage for a full day of events that began with a morning entourage of national news broadcasts on Capitol Hill from as early as 5am-7am. By 8am the gated opened for ticket bearing attendees and even those who scalped unused tickets at the last minute, “God bless America.” By 10:30am, we heard the sounds of the San Francisco Boys Chorus and San Francisco Girls Chorus.
Rick Warren, author of a Purpose Driven Life, recited the invocation after Senator Diane Feinstein Called to Order with Welcoming Remarks. And like a sweet songbird, Aretha Franklin sang, “My Country Tis’ of Thee.” Vice President-Elect Biden became the Vice President of the United States as soon as he was sworn into office, and yes his wife fumbled on the Oprah Winfrey Show and falsely stated that her husband was offered Secretary of State or Vice Presidency which was followed by Obama’s reps that indeed, Vice President Biden was solely considered for the vice presidency all along.
Music followed composed by Yo-Yo Ma, Gabriela Montero and Anthony McGill composed by John Williams and Itzhak Perlman. Like the hands of the clock at a ball, Barack Obama recited the Oath of Office sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Roberts who recited the wrong oath humbly corrected by Presidential Elect Barack Obama who by the words of the constitution if stated incorrectly could have been ground to forfeit his presidency later on. The official President Barack Obama did not break a sweat as his wife, a lawyer from Harvard as himself and many presidents smiled.
At 12:05, President Barack Obama delivered his inaugural address to America and around the word sending cheers as he spoke from his native homelands. The words he recited are no sacred and for those who watched on Dr. Elizabeth Alexander, only the 4th poet to recite a poem and 2nd black poet following in the steps of Dr. Maya Angelou, recited HERSTORY.
A benediction followed by the Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery, who marched with Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. as heard just a day before on ABC NEWS proceeding a warm reminiscent message of change by Bronx City Council Woman Diane Foster. He had hoped to remember his speech as he cleverly changed what was a negative cliché into a positive one as the first sign of change. For a moment, it was clear that Barack Obama held his breath in hoping there would be no surprises as with his former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright.
The ceremony ended with The National Anthem performed by “The United States Navy Band “Sea Chanbers” and hours of marching parades up and down Pennsylvania Avenue from the United States Capitol to the White House. I was in a nail salon watching the rest of the parade and getting my nails airbrushed with classic red, white and blue nail art before heading out to 1 of over 10 balls, when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, surprisingly got out of their motorcade to greet millions of cheering people in the crowd that looked like one big family of unity.
You saw tears strum down White, Black, Latino, Asian faces and people of all nationalities. I closed my eyes as the parade marched on and reminisced over looking at each one of my kindergartner’s faces and letting them know I loved them all. The children got an opportunity of a lifetime to become Barack Obama on this day as each one stood in front of our makeshift podium and shared their speech of “Change for America,” proceeded with I AM BARACK OBAMA posters sealed in time with their own red, white and blue handprints.
I recalled how hard they worked on their “I Am Barack Obama Dolls and letters to Barack Obama which will arrive to the White House by Valentine’s Day 2008. There is much work to do as Barack Husseim Obama stated in his eloquent speech that surpassed the brief 15 minutes of the late Robert F. Kennedy. The weather was 27 degrees. Edward Kennedy silently suffered a seizure post ceremony and had to be rushed to the hospital, reminding everyone just how precious life is each day and the incumbent responsibility of every America to get ready for THE JOURNEY which will take every hand with unity to help change America.
So much is upon us as we are reminded of the millions of Americans facing cancer like anchor woman Robin Roberts who bravely revealed her bought with the disease and today able to introduce The Neighborhood Ball headlined by artists like Wil. I. AM with his classic, “It’s a New Day,” Shakira, Alicia Keys, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Jamie Foxx and Nick Cannon as the D.J. It was something like a fairytale when Beyonce’ appeared on stage to serenade President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama who danced to Etta James classic, AT LAST.
The Universal Hip Hopper, Jay Z. got America’s “Lighters Up” with same entitled song, Tomorrow, President Barack Obama takes office and people all around the world can agree with Barack Obama, “I Found a Dream!” ……“ And now it’s time to follow yours. For to lead is to follow and to follow is to lead, and to lead is to follow by example and that example is to live your dreams for the world to see!”- Heather Covington