WASHINGTON, D.C. –Tears rolled down the cheeks of a 60-year-old woman shortly after President Obama took the oath of office for his second term. She calmly let them drop without letting her hand interfere.

The woman, Karren Pope-Onwukwe of Hyattsville, Md., was accompanied by Christine Kennard, her 79-year-old mother, who resides in Columbia, Md. The two women, along with hundreds of thousands of others, showed up bright and early for the 57th Presidential Inauguration.

The crowd included many African Americans who grew up in a time when even the idea of a Black president was an unrealistic daydream. “I’m really very proud of the fact that my family and my generation lived to witness this day,” said Gloria Tyson, 61, of Birmingham, Ala. As Tyson reminisced on the historic events that led to change in the United States, she admitted that she never thought she’d see an African American elected president.

This day not only marked the start of Obama’s second term, but also the second time that the inauguration has occurred on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Moments like these are meaningful and historic to many Americans. However, ceremonies like these hold a special place in the hearts of older African Americans who may have witnessed the color barrier being broken.

“I’d be remiss not to come see this,” said Thomas Patterson, 75. Patterson is the grandson of a former slave and longest serving African American councilman of Lubbock, Texas.

Obama urged those who believe the task of achieving equality in the society to think again. “Our journey is not yet complete,” he said as he outlined his agenda over the next four years. He touched on defending the country, living in an environment-friendly world and becoming a country that is more accepting of homosexuality. His referred to them as “our gay brothers and sisters,” emphasizing that their issue is also an issue of inequality.

For many in the 2013 crowd on the mall, Jan. 21 marked the second time they have witnessed an Obama inauguration. Pope-Onwukwe, who was part of the crowd of 1.8 million people who attended the first Obama inauguration in 2009, linked Obama’s achievement with a Martin Luther King vision
King, she said, “had a vision and his vision came from God that this could happen,” Pope-Onwukwe said. ”I believe President Obama is a visionary leader and he has a vision for where this country can go within the African American community and even with same sex-marriage. What he’s saying is we have to love one another despite our differences.”

After comparing these two historical figures, Pope-Onwukwe exclaimed of King, “He set me free.” She then let out a chuckle as a teardrop fell from her cheek. 


Taryn Finley

Special to the AFRO