Today, January 20, 2009, Barack Obama took the Oath of Office as the 44th President of the United States of America. I didn’t attend the inauguration. Since I am not currently working in a newsroom, I knew I would not be covering the event, so I decided to stay in Cambridge and save a little money and stay warm. I began to regret my decision after my linebrother, Ron Brinson, called me Sunday afternoon from D.C., asking me where was I. His wife, Kobi, is a law school classmate of the new president. I regretted it more when I saw my chapter brother Allen Lee on CNN standing behind Soledad O’Brien during one of her standup. I should have been there. But in lieu of that, I, along with several Niemans and other members of the Harvard community watched it in the Hip Hop Archive of the
W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. It was great company, great food and a few tears as we watched the historic moment. In 1903, Du Bois wrote in the “Souls of Black Folks,” “The Problem of the 20th Century is the problem of the color-line.” Standing in the center named for the great scholar, watching the first African-American become president of the United States, I couldn’t help but wonder what Du Bois might have thought today.
Also, if you didn’t see it, I added a clip of the great Joseph Lowery’s benediction. Joe Lowery is an American Giant who helped found the SCLC with Martin Luther King Jr. He, along with guys like John Lewis, C.T. Vivian and Fred Shuttlesworth, are the real deal when it comes to civil rights. And, he also officiated my wedding.
One final note. Being here at Harvard and being an American, you can take some things for granted. So when the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin walked to the podium Russian Fellow Andrei Zolotov earnestly asked, “Who is that?” The whole room went silent. Doesn’t the whole world know who Aretha Franklin is? Apparently not. But, I will be sure to make sure that when Andrei goes back to Moscow, he will have an Aretha Franklin CD. Check out Tommy Tomlinson‘s blog on the inauguration and watch early concert footage of the Queen.