In my lifetime I've had a lot of fun, gone to a lot of parties and met a lot of people. None of these experiences can compare to the one I had this weekend.
I prayed for light traffic driving down with my man Hitesh on Saturday and was rewarded with a very easy going three hour drive. Although I wasn't invited to any official balls, my cousin Jeanette hosted an unofficial Jamaicans for Obama Ball at her house. Seeing the excitement and pride that Obama had given to my family from Jamaica was a truly outstanding thing. No other ball could have compared to that experience.
The inaugural concert was the best concert I've seen in my life. Mary J Blige's performance of "Lean on Me" was a great choice. This is a time when many Americans are going through troubled times and need the support of their friends, families and co-workers. We might not be able to make it by ourselves, but if we get tired or stressed, all Americans should have someone to lean on.
I was also excited and proud to see that the concert had two of my other favorite songs, Sam Cooke's civil rights classic, "A Change Gone Come" and Bob Marley's "One Love." It's incredible that the Lincoln Memorial Concert featured a song by a man who was deemed a threat by the CIA and that it was sung to bring in our new President. Although I sang along to every song, the unexpected appearance of folk singer, labor leader and American hero, Pete Seeger, and his song that I've sung since childhood, "This Land is Your Land," was the highlight of the evening. It's great that Seeger has lived long enough to see the country that persecuted him because of his beliefs, embrace him as an American hero.
If the songs sung at the inaugural concert are any indication of the direction Obama will take the country, the optimism, hope, unity and struggle will take the USA into a great new direction. The music was songs of freedom. Not Sean Hannity's freedom, but Martin Luther King's freedom, Bob Marley's freedom and Pete Seeger's freedom.
I got to meet some girls who came all the way from Kenya to see Obama's inauguration. Their excitement, energy and pride was contagious. In a time when Africa is going through wars and poverty, Obama has become a beacon of hope for the forgotten continent. Obama's victory did not just inspire Americans, but inspired the whole world. Anybody who has come from an oppressed people, anyone who has been discriminated against, anybody who has been told they were different or told they don't belong.
Martin Luther King Day has never had as much significance as it did this weekend. Watching King on TV was a strong reminder of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears that lead to Obama's historic inauguration. I couldn't help but see the historic comparison between these two brilliant men.
Props to Baratunde Thurston and Cheryl Contee for inviting me to the Netroots Ball. Seeing involved young people of my generation was a truly inspirational thing. If the torch has been passed to a new generation, its in good hands. It seemed like the white people at the event were paying tribute to the accomplishment of Barack Obama and African American people by giving me drink tickets. I must have had twenty by the end of the evening. Joining the new inclusive America, I gave several of my white colleagues drinks with my extra tickets.
On the train ride home I had Willy Wonka moment. I struck up a conversation with a group of friendly older white people. It turned out that one of them, Michael Jordan, worked for the Obama campaign and he gave me a silver ticket to the inauguration. Thank you Michael Jordan from Chicago, not the basketball player.
The masses of people who rushed to the National Mall to watch Obama's inauguration quickly turned to chaos. Still I managed to get a spot around 200 yards from the Capitol. In line I met people from the military, Ohio, Texas and California. Everybody was so friendly and positive, united in their hope, pride and optimism. When Bush was introduced, I heard the classic Steam hit, "Hey Hey, Good bye" from the back. I quickly started singing it too and the next thing I knew, the whole crowd started singing it. Later, I would overhear on older black man say, "They done took Satan out the Whitehouse and Put in Jesus."
Aretha Franklin's version of "My Country Tis of Thee" rivaled Ray Charles's "America the Beautiful" or Marvin Gaye's "Star-Spangled Banner." Her song gave new meaning to the Langston Hughes poem, "I, Too, Sing America." While Obama's speech did not have the great one-liners I expected, he clearly outlined his agenda as President. Hillary Clinton said that you campaign in poetry but you govern in prose. Obama successfully turned his broad idealistic rhetoric to a very clear plan for the country.
It was truly an honor to bare witness to history. Even though I was cold, tired and hungover, I've never felt so alive and excited.
So many great times, so many great people, such a great occasion, such great man. If you would have told me that this would happen ten years ago, five years ago or even one year ago, I would have never believed it. Here's to the new America. Here's to hope, Here's to unity, Here's to Barack Obama, Here's to America, Here's to us. Congratulations America.
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