By Vickie Evans-Nash
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Over 800,000 people were in attendance on the National Mall for the 2013 presidential inauguration. Though the crowd may not have equaled the size of the 2009 gathering, this second presidential inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama demonstrated Americans’ enthusiasm for his presidency.
What was a significant event for many Americans was even more so for those of African descent.
“It’s good to see an African American in the White House, especially somebody I voted for,” said Damola Ogundipe, former Minnesota Gophers football player, while touring the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument in the nation’s capital the day before the inauguration.
Ogundipe, born in Nigeria and raised in the Twin Cities, moved to Los Angeles just over a year ago after finishing college. He said that four years ago, as a 19-year-old, he didn’t have the financial means to attend the inauguration. “I’m very proud of the job that President Obama has done his first term, and I look forward to the second term.”
Like Ogundipe, many from the Twin Cities missed the first inauguration but made a special effort to personally experience this one. “This is my first time,” said Windy Ross of Minneapolis. “I said to myself, I didn’t want to miss it for the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I made it my business to be here.”
“There was just no way I was going to miss out on this time,” said Souná Davison, attending with a group of friends, including Ross. “I’m just happy and excited to be here and show my support.”
Tene Wells of Minneapolis, who attended four years ago, felt this second inauguration held even greater significance. “In my opinion, I think this is actually more monumental than the first one,” she said. “I think this is more important that he won the second term, so that he will be able to enact the things that having to run again prevented him from really taking a drastic step [toward], and I think he really will.”
“I had a commitment to see President Obama out through completion,” said Jettie Ann Hill, who also attended the 2009 inauguration. “I was a national delegate last time [and] a national delegate this time. I’m actually the elector this time around, so I actually got to cast a vote for Barack Obama, and it meant absolutely a lot to me.”
Hill, of Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District, felt this year’s event lacked the international appeal of 2009. “There was a lot of worldwide attention last time around, both in D.C. and also at the [Democratic National] Convention.” Hill said this year there appeared to be more heightened security: “You didn’t get that the last time, because there was so much excitement.
“But I wouldn’t have missed it. If I had to walk backwards [to get here], I was coming,” said Hill.
During the inauguration invocation, Myrlie Evers-Williams spoke of a dream that the re-election of Barack Obama has moved many African Americans one step closer to feeling they can realize: “The American Dream, the opportunity to become whatever our mankind/womankind allows us to be.
“One hundred and fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation, and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised folks to today’s expression of a more perfect union.”
To many African Americans, the re-election of President Obama has helped in forging that union. “To me it symbolizes actual change now,” said Joshua Harris, a former Twin Cities resident attending the inauguration. “And it is a statement that the mindset of Americans is changing too…
“This election was won by people who in previous years had not showed up to vote, and so now they are showing up. They are saying I’m being more politically involved, and that is a true statement of change within our community.”
The simultaneous occurrence of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and the second inauguration of the nation’s first Black president culminated in a celebration of the spirit of African American ancestors through Evers’ prayer: “They are a great cloud of witnesses, unseen by the naked eye, but all around us, thankful that their living was not in vain.”
“This time it was like this is really a reaffirmation” said Sherri Pugh of the Twin Cities. “I just wanted to be here and experience it… Hope, strength, perseverance…all are needed in this next term.”
Vickie Evans-Nash welcomes reader response to firstname.lastname@example.org.