Black Columbians share their thoughts on historic inauguration

Tuesday, January 20, 2009 | 8:16 p.m. CST; updated 4:34 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 21, 2009

*CORRECTION: Lisa Thornton said: “I didn’t think I’d live to see it. It’s just amazing. With all of the sacrifices, struggles and how deep-rooted segregation and racism were, I didn’t think we’d have a black president in this day and age. … Even though he won in November, I left my sign in my yard until today.” An earlier version misquoted her and incorrectly identified her.

COLUMBIA — Tuesday's inauguration of the nation's first black president marks a moment in history. But for the black community, the event had an even greater significance as a day of national pride.

Brennan Duvall and Daryl Kirkland-Morgan, two juniors at MU, watched the inauguration and said they felt as if the civil rights movement was reaching a pinnacle.

Kirkland-Morgan said she was in class during the inauguration, and afterward she rushed to a computer lab to watch a replay. She said that as she watched Obama take the oath of office, she was thinking, "I can't believe this is happening."

"This really is a divine day," she said. "When you're growing up, you learn the first black person to do things. This is what my children will learn — that he is the first black president."

Kirkland-Morgan said that as a black woman, she also feels a connection with Michelle Obama.

"Every time I see Michelle, it becomes real to me," she said. "It's the first time I've seen someone in that position that looks like me."

"We're both tall black girls," she added with a laugh.

Duvall said he was in class during the inauguration, and his professor allowed the class to watch some of the ceremony. To him, the feeling was surreal.

"I was looking and finally it started to settle in. It was real real," Duvall said.

Duvall said it was almost unbelievable that a people descended from slaves were able to see a black person become president.

"It's crazy to believe that's even possible," Duvall said.

Duvall also said the inauguration was important because it went beyond race. The fact that Obama didn't come from a wealthy or powerful family also mattered.

"For so many years they've been telling you there's an American dream, but it wasn't true, it wasn't like that. You had to be a certain color, you had to come from a certain family," Duvall said. "He came up from the bottom. It's like a great American dream."

Andrea Lee, a senior at MU, said it was excellent to see the progress black people had made. She had been watching the inauguration festivities on and off throughout the day.

"I know some people thought they'd be dead before they'd see anything like this," Lee said.

Elsewhere across Columbia, people shared their reactions:

  • “Ain’t nothing going to change.” — Cortez Thompson
  • “I won’t feel anything about it (Obama’s presidency) until something changes. Racist stares, thoughts and actions, people still classifying people as ‘brothas and sistahs.’ It’s going to another couple hundred years (to change). ... It (Obama’s election) shows that the world cares about the world and not just certain parts caring about themselves.” — C.J. Handy-Buford
  • “It (the inauguration) gave me an uplifting feeling. It was emotional. It brought me back to the things I learned in school about Black History Month. It gave me a feeling of unity. It was like a breath of fresh air, like walking outside and seeing something really beautiful for the first time. You can’t describe it — it’s like a perfect sunset. ... Obama is someone you can trust. He’s like a big brother or an older uncle and you can’t wait to see what he’s bringing you for Christmas.” — Travis McMullen
  • “I think he’s going to be different from President Bush. But I want to see what he does instead of paying attention to what he says. It will take a couple of years to do everything he wants to. ... He can’t mess up more than Bush.” — Sarah Presley
  • “I didn’t think I’d live to see it. It’s just amazing. With all of the sacrifices, struggles and how deep-rooted segregation and racism were*, I didn’t think we’d have a black president in this day and age. … Even though he won in November, I left my sign in my yard until today.” —Lisa Thornton*
  • “This is the first time I’ve followed an election. I’m excited about the whole thing. My family is from the South, and it means a lot to them, so it means a lot to me.” — Brittany Smotherson
  • “This puts a cap on history for me. From a historical perspective, from what my life was like and what it is now, it brings it all together. He signals a kinder and gentler America for all of us. We see that with all the cultures represented at the Lincoln (Memorial at the National Mall). There’s such a good, positive feeling about living and being here. In order to be successful, we all have to work together.” — Monica Naylor

Missourian reporters Jehan Roberson and Claire Hanan contributed to this report.

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Ray Shapiro January 20, 2009 | 10:45 p.m.

Alright already, black America, I get it. A mulatto in the white house is a big deal. (mulatto: the first-generation offspring of a black person and a white person)
I'm just happy that after Gore and Kerry not getting the presidency, that we finally have a democrat in the white house again.

I hope we witness some substance beyond the hoopla that I have been watching and participating in over the last couple of months and days.

I think the Inaugaration activities cost the American taxpayers more than needed and the monies pivately contributed to the "festivities" could have been put to better use. Hypocrisy is evident as self-indulgence and Public Relations prevail from media coverage and commercialism of the Kids' Inaugaration aka Hannah Montana, staged for our new first lady and her two daughters, to the Obama-maniacs on parade.

Also, this first "black president thing" is already getting to be too much in my face and is already getting old. (I don't need any one to keep reminding me that I voted for a black man. I knew he was black from day one.)

I also think that Black Churches have gone way over the top. Have blacks no other accomplishments to be proud of?

I think these black separatist Church leaders forget that Obama was also voted in because of white voters. They are also capitalizing on this historic event and keeping their flock "close to the vest" and super charged, while in reality this country is currently in a bad way. (Nothing like control issues for the clergy.) And concerning there outlook on "whites," do they give us any credit for this historic event, or do they want to just "rub it in our faces" as if maybe we made a mistake?

When towns like Columbia can no longer differentiate between "black churches" and "white churches," and it's just people going to a church, and when there are Parent-Teacher Associations instead of separate "Black Parents Associations" and when I don't feel the effects of reverse discrimination on employment and educational opportunities for whites and when the arrogance of "Gangsta' rap" wakes up and realizes how good it really is to live in a "crime/drug free" America, then maybe we can start celebrating that we've accomplished something.

I still can't figure out for the life of me why the "Obama Community Volunteer Coalition" in Columbia is comprised of 99.5% white college students and local old-time dems.

Maybe Nathan Stephans and Mary Ratcliff are too busy walking around town with lit candles and throwing "poor people" breakfasts at Douglass.
Or, maybe I'm just not black enough?

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