Inauguration Day 2009

barack-obamaI welcome any opportunity to participate in the history of African people, whether on the Continent or in the Diaspora. The Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the USA on 20th January 2009 presented such an opportunity.

Like many, I had watched Barack’s dignified and strategic campaign against Hilary Clinton and John McCain for the Presidency, during my seven month visit to Africa. I had shared the euphoria of Barack’s Presidential victory with one’s in South Africa, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Nothing however, compared to the sense of pride and achievement amongst African Americans, that I discovered during my visit to Washington DC for the Inauguration.

African Americans that I spoke to were not of the opinion that Barack’s victory was going to change things overnight, or that he could miraculously improved the serious economic plight that the USA is now suffering from or that he could meet the needs of all black people.

What was clear however, was that this victory was a long time coming! Before this victory the USA had 43 white male presidents! In a country that is basically a European vision built by African labour – for free- there clearly should be more African representation in Government, particularly bearing in mind the large size of the African community.

For my part, I was just happy to see an African family occupying the most important house – which Africans had built. I was glad to see the White House turn BLACK! How well a job Barack and the Democrats do remain to be seen, they certainly cannot do worst than the previous administration. I also admire Barack’s attitude towards family, embracing his extended family from around the world and engaging with them, his step mother (Kenyan wife of the Kenyan father he barely knew) left London for DC at the same time I was travelling.

As the descendent of enslaved Africans, it is a real victory for I to see Michelle Obama as ‘first lady’. The love and admiration that Barack has for his wife Michelle is great to behold and such a rarity in the African community.

When I departed for DC, I expected to just soak up the atmosphere in DC but soon after arriving I discovered that I was to be part of an ABC News film on ‘how African American families celebrated the day’. My host Dr Koura Gibson only mentioned the filming when I arrived and although we did not have tickets for the Inauguration itself, being pushy I found a ‘kind’ African police officer to allow InI and the film crew into the Inauguration – which was a huge accomplishment bearing in mind how many thousands with tickets could not get in because of the queues.

We also hosted an Inauguration Party on the 19th which was filmed by a documentary film company from California. Needless to say InI did a lot of partying and on one surreal evening found ourselves at a jazz event when in walked Beyonce, Jayzee and Puff Daddy (whatever he is calling himself). Jayzee was kind enough to allow us to take photographs (even when their security tried to block us). Of course no visit to the USA would be complete without actually meeting the President – that was not possible so I went to Philadelphia to meet up with Ras Mora, the President of the Ethiopian World Federation Inc instead!

We have to give thanks for Barack’s victory as that in itself was a very symbolic moment in African history. When it comes to USA elections democracy doesn’t seem to apply, despite the fact that American ‘observers’ at elections in other countries are always quick to condemn the results, we are never quite sure how they arrive at their results. But then we should have seen this victory coming as the only time ‘black’ people get to manage is when they are handed a sinking ship….!

Lets hope Barack can keep it afloat for a while longer as I have some great bredrin and sistren in the USA, and give thanks to all those that made my Inauguration day extra special.

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