on a brisk tuesday january 20, 2009 in the nation's capitol, just shortly after noon, the exact time our con-stitution officially embraces a new president, chief justice john roberts administered the oath of office to america's 44th commander-in-chief, barack hussein obama. roberts' awkward fumbling of a simple procedure was evident, yet obama remained calm. this historical event was witnessed by millions across the globe. for many people of african descent obama's reclamation of power symbolizes a new day in a new year. his audacity to hope was fully realized but where will we go from here?
home alone watching various television coverages of the inauguration i began to slowly regret my decision to not (do whatever it takes to) participate, at least physically, in obama's improbable victory. i didn't think it was practical to be amongst what i assumed would be a few million people outside in the bitter cold, even though i was born & raised in hyde park, on the south side of chicago, former home to both chicago's first black mayor harold washington & the nation's new leader. ironically, my best friend called me monday morning with a bus ticket from his church, yet i remained steadfast in my unwillingness to go to washington dc.
truly an inter-generational affair i reveled in the large number of young people who were present to witness this day. obama inspired people diverse in age, culture, faith, gender, region & sexuality. the energy & spirit were impacted unlike any other president, including john f kennedy, whom many see parallels in the tall, skinny man with the funny last name. an impartial observer might conclude the states of america were united, if only for one day. folks were in tears, again, as he put his hand on the bible (the same bible used by abe lincoln when our african ancestors were enslaved), wife & first lady michelle beaming next to him with pride, pledging allegiance to an oppressive system of laws & lies & loathing.
early in the campaign i quietly volunteered for obama, yet ultimately chose to vote for georgia representative cynthia mckinney & her vp running mate, rosa clemente of the green party primarily because their progressive platform resonated with my revolutionary spirit. as gil scott-heron once wrote, "i believe in my convictions & have been convicted for my beliefs." who else during the recent presidential campaign engaged us to think critically about complex issues - pertinent issues ignored by 'the best political team on tv' - such as anti-homosexual bias, darfur, hip hop community, hiv/aids prevention, impeaching bush, mental illness, misogyny, prison industrial complex, reparations, substance use & white supremacy? speaking truth to power can lead to assassination: medgar evers, malcolm x, rev dr king jr, john f & robert kennedy, i.e.
no doubt, obama is a powerful man with a sad job. america's arrogance is hated by many both here & abroad. his predecessor, george w. bush, leaves two terms in office with the worst popular rating in american history, in addition to a plethora of problems. the obama administration inherits two wars, a three trillion dollar debt, wall street recession, auto industry depression, home foreclosures, ongoing rise in unemployment, gender pay inequity, global warming challenges, political cynicism, faith-based discord, etc. his cup runneth over. in fact, bi-racial top ten pro tennis player james blake, a former harvard student & fervent obama supporter, told a reporter a couple of days ago during the australian open tennis tournament, "i'm excited to be a part of this but i don't envy his new job."
the ethnic expectations are enormous for obama. the energy & excitement of his inauguration was evident on the faces of folk, many of whom, including this writer, never believed this one fine day would manifest. obama is bright, compassionate, handsome, intelligent & resilient. people feel connected to him because he's shared honestly about his personal challenges growing up without his kenyan father, feeling alienated culturally & substance use, which he stopped while in college. black folk, in particular, i believe, see obama as an example of the best we can produce in this country from a political standpoint. though vehemently cynical black folk want obama to embody the words of rev dr king jr when he said, "i've seen the promised land...i may not get there with you but i want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."
america promised us 40 acres & a mule quite some time ago. she has yet to deliver on her promise. any wonder black folk have a sense of entitlement? i don't want my mtv i want to be financially compensated for the unpaid labor of my ancestors. just tell me where to sign the check, ok? though we know he's one man who's hue-manly fallible, there exists a sense of ownership in his presidency: a black family in the white house is a small down payment on america's unkempt promise. when he talked about every person in the nation experiencing happiness, fulfillment & success, folks feel he's talking to them, not at them, because he cares. he is, after all, one of us. he generally identifies himself as an american, yet in a interview with tavis smiley last fall he talked about the challenges of being a black man in american politics; the first black family symbolizes what is possible - even when many folk don't trust the 'man', 'the system,' or the world in which we live.
my 80 year-old father predicted obama would become president, shortly after he announced his candidacy in february of 2007. god called him home three days before the inauguration of emancipation. my father's transition is a sobering reminder of how fragile life is. my father once told me america is a lie. he told me in 25 or 50 years americans will no longer refer to themselves as black or white, particularly with a racialized black man as president. barack hussein obama cannot change racism, but his triumph can transform the global perception of black people emotionally, psychologically & spiritually in a way unprecedented in this century. my father taught me everything in life is mathematical. hopefully, obama's next four years will add up to something good for us all.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.