Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Moment of Transformation

It is 4:16 am on Wednesday, January 21, 2009, and I am still trying to digest my inaugural experience. I shake my head and look skyward, filled with a thankful spirit for being alive during this moment to see the first African-American President of the United States take the oath of office. Like the other two million or so persons (which I think there were more) that gathered to witness the swearing in of our 44th President, Barack H. Obama, I too battled the frigid temperatures to be a part of this great historical moment.

Aside from the numb feeling that the cold gave your limbs and extremities, it seemed as though there was an energy in the air that was not easily describable that also chilled and stirred the soul. My attempt to speak to the feeling is that maybe, just maybe I, as well as the rest of my fellow Americans, was filled with a holistic sense of HOPE. This feeling was not like the feeling I had when I heard Obama's speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004 or when I was blessed to meet him (and speak with him) on a flight to St. Louis in 2005, nor was it the feeling I had when I donated to the campaign for the first time. Neither was the feeling today the same as I had when I spoke to my ninety-seven year old grandmother when Obama won the election.

As I stood with my uncle and cheered after President-Elect Obama became President Barack Hussein Obama, I then knew what the "substance of things hoped for" and "the evidence of things not seen" was. As President Obama gave his magnificent and succinct oration I was doubly proud to hear that Rev. Joseph Lowery was giving the benediction. In his usual oratorical flare he did not disappoint and important for me was his use of James Weldon Johnson's "Lift Every Voice and Sing"/"Negro National Anthem".

Of the many times that I have sang, listened to, or read the lyrics to this song, hearing the last stanza of the third verse, "true to our God, true to our native land" never felt more inspiring. I typically engage the words and think of my native land as ancestral Africa. Today I felt a second "native land"--America. The imperfect, tragic, oppressive, and devastating aspects of the history of United States aside, I pause to give thanks to the Creator for allowing me to see and experience this transformative moment first hand. For on this day the spirits of those ancestors who helped us to get to this moment through their sacrifice are uplifted and exalted. Theirs was not a toil made in vain.

I shall never forget this day nor the words of my uncle, Rev. Dr. Milton Mitchell, Sr., who in his own transformative moment yelled, "God Be Praised!" after President Barack Obama took the sacred oath. As the new President of the United States filed out of view from the crowd and the those gathered in the mall cheered, there was nothing like seeing the dancing folk all around me. Each of us who witnessed the inauguration seemed to be filled with joy, however it was particularly moving to see the faces and emotion of other black folk I saw who danced with delight and gleeful merriment. As I joined in the reveling, I thought about what our ancestors must have felt like after emancipation singing, "Jubilee".

We have celebrated, we have cheered, we have cried, shouted, and given thanks for the hope that President Obama represents. Now, with the continued help of God let us do the work of kingdom and nation building.
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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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