By Kendra L. Turner:
As Valentine’s Day is among us in the midst of Black History Month, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on real black love.
It was a true labor of love that allowed two friends and I to make a 13-hour road trip from Chicago after a more than stressful week of work to witness the 57th Presidential Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
We love and treasure Barack Obama not only because he is the country’s first black president, but also because he represents the love of our ancestors who embraced the idea that we as a people were worth more than our current circumstances and were destined for greatness. He represents what our ancestors fought and died for, he is the personification of the lyrics of Lift Every Voice and Sing, the Black National Anthem, penned by James Weldon Johnson over a century ago. “Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last /Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast…”
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, climbing through the bushes on the outskirts of the West Lawn of the United States Capitol—once again a labor of love, I witnessed true American history at its finest—the first black President reclaiming the country’s highest office for a second time. The 57th Presidential Inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama denotes feelings of devotion, strength and pride, just to name a few.
The feelings of love and adoration were deepened further after hearing the invocation of Myrlie Evers-Williams, who was married to assassinated civil-rights activist, Medgar Evers. Evers-Williams became the first woman and layperson to give an inaugural invocation in which she acknowledged both the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement and the country’s newest struggles with gun violence. Evers-Williams encouraged President Obama and others of the “Joshua Generation” to continue to build on the foundation established by civil rights pioneers such as her late husband who laid down his life for the love of his people.
President Obama took to the podium to address the sea of citizens that had gathered to observe history. Appropriately, he spoke to the idea of the American people not just moving forward, but doing so collectively. “Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together,” President Obama remarked.
Borrowing from the Declaration of Independence, President Obama’s key focus of “We the People…” was ever-present in his address as he paid homage to those who came before him. Namely Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still. Just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung. Who left footprints along this great mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on earth?”
He enjoined every citizen to take their responsibility in guiding America’s continued course towards freedom and acknowledged his oath to do the same. It is only through love for ourselves and love for our fellow man that we can accomplish the goal. Just as our ancestors loved us enough to make sacrifices to achieve the goal of freedom, we must do the same to keep that freedom alive for our descendants.
Once again, our bright star has been cast, Barack Obama. We love you!