Yesterday, Joseph R. Biden Jr was inaugurated as 46th President of the United States.
I listened to a day of speeches and oaths, and commentary about what was being said, and how different it sounded than the last 4 years. To be honest I did not listen fully to the content of the words. It did all sound different, in tone, and in the brief bits of substance that caught me.
But mostly it looked different. I watched and I saw the day, from a long view, over time, and as a whole.
I saw Joe Biden, a 78 year old white man, who embarked on a life long journey in Federal politics, elected as a U.S. Senator at the age of 30 in 1972, the same year that Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman ran for the office of President. In 1988, 32 years ago, Joe Biden ran for President, and lost, and then again in 2008 when he lost again before being selected by Barack Obama as his Vice Presidential running mate, winning 2 terms, faithfully standing alongside, and standing behind the first black President of the United States.
And I saw hands that drew me in. The hands of a 22 year old Youth Poet Laureate, Amanda Gorman. Long, graceful, black skinned hands, dancing, enticing, inviting, us to come listen to the spine of steel poetry that emerged on the evening of America’s first insurrection on the U.S. Capital since 1812, an insurrection rooted in a history of white supremacy. Amanda’s hands would sweep and dance to the sounds and rhythms in her voice, calling us to gather round, and listen. Her hands called for my attention to what she was saying...
"And the norms and notions of what just is Isn’t always just-ice"
We the successors of a country and a time Where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president only to find herself reciting for one
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree And no one shall make them afraid
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation Our blunders become their burdens
For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it
I saw hands, the white gloved hands of Fire Captain Andrea Hall, the first Black woman to serve as fire captain for the South Fulton County Fire Rescue, stepping into the wedge, to speak of commitment and promise, and I sat up and listened.
“one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
I saw music. I heard it too, but it was the seeing that was important to me...
Lori Marie Key, a COVID-19 nurse from Detroit MI sang "Amazing Grace", while Yolanda Adams sang "Hallelujah" at the first COVID-19 Memorial honoring the lives of 400,000 who have died since the pandemic began, and those who love them. On Inauguration Day Lady Gaga sang the national anthem, and Jennifer Lopez sang "This Land is Your Land," transitioning into "America the Beautiful", and in Spanish spoke at the end...
"Una nación, bajo Dios, indivisible, con libertad y justicia para todos"
I saw respect emanating in the relationship of Joe and Jill Biden, as they walked and stood by each other, hand in hand, embracing, with their bodies speaking the language of partnership, and a deep and abiding love.
I saw President Joe Biden using his position to make visible that he is making room, as a veteran of political service, whose life long journey offers him the wisdom to know when to stand in, and when to stand back. I saw him "making room" for that which is needed, evidenced in the selection of Kamala Harris who brings perspective and experience as the first black woman of Indian descent as Vice President, with the skills required in a “nation of laws”.
So it was less about what I heard, and more about what I saw. I saw the 46th President of the United States make room for what we need.