Mrs. Rankin Naasel Goes to Washington

Man. I’ve been back in NYC for nearly 24 hours, and I am still exhausted from our five-day jaunt to DC. Way back when Obama won the Iowa primary, the hubby turned to me and said, “We are going when he is inaugurated. We have to be there!” so there was no question that we would brave the wilds of I-95 and the madness of a tourist-overrun downtown WDC to be a part of history.

We drove down on Friday night and stayed at my sister-in-law’s house near Baltimore, which kept us out of the fray (shouts to Van; you rock!). To keep drama to a minimum, we skipped the big parties and ventured into my old stomping grounds in DC just a few times for parties thrown by friends and to volunteer at RFK stadium on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make care packages for the troops—we got there right after Michelle Obama left, boooo.

Making care packages for troops at RFK Stadium in DC

Making care packages for troops at RFK Stadium in DC

Then it was time for the big day. Because my BFF works for DC gov’ment, I had a major hookup that gave us front row VIP seats at the parade without having to stand outside (Erica and Boss; you’re the best!), so we camped out in the Wilson Building on Pennsylvania Avenue overnight to avoid the crazy security lines on Tuesday morning. After about an hour and a half of sleep, we got up at seven a.m. and gathered around the televisions to watch the Obamas’ every move, from early-morning church services to the fumbled oath. Then we beat it to the windows to see the new first family in the flesh!

Access granted for a private viewing of the inauguration

Access granted for a private viewing of the inauguration

Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am a crybaby; hell, read this column regularly, and you’ve already seen that anything related to the new pres turns on the waterworks. So I was surprised that the tears didn’t come during his speech. I nearly cried when I saw Sasha waving madly from the car with her forehead pressed against the window and a huge smile plastered on her face (little brown girls in the White House, eeeekkk!), but I persevered. It wasn’t until I was in the car on the way back to NYC that I broke down, while listening to a Ray Charles sing “America” with portions of speeches from MLK and BHO weaved in.

Folks waiting for the parade to start

Folks waiting for the parade to start

I suppose it had seemed surreal up until that point, but hearing those words juxtaposed with that song made it clear that Barack really and truly was not just my homeboy, but my president, too. That I hadn’t been disappointed this time. That our hard work had actually influenced the future of this country. That my hope and faith hadn’t been in vain. As much as I had always believed Barack would be victorious in this election, before he emerged, I never believed it was possible for a Black man to become president during my lifetime. But for my children, it will never be a big deal that this man is running the show; they will never know an America where the disenfranchised vowed to never vote again after the debacles of 2000 and 2004, where skepticism kept some Black folk from supporting Barack until he won a major contest, where we collectively held our breath and mumbled a silent prayer of protection when he jumped out of the car during Tuesday’s parade. And that is a beautiful thing.

Yesterday, while getting her hair done, my four-year-old niece (who has a wonderful father, BTW) told her mommy: “I want Obama to be my daddy!” I believe that little declaration says it all.

Where were you on that historic day? I wanna know!


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  • Sal

    I have goosebumps. Thank you for sharing this. I watched it on TV with a group of friends – we held hands during the speech.

  • Shera

    Viva Obama! Even crackers got choked up on inauguration day. Obama et family in the White House is a HUGE step forward for this nation. Now let’s do our part to live up to the standard we set. Great column Kenrya!

  • So cool that you were right up front for the parade! I’m living vicariously through you.

  • Georgianna

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful details and photos – I feel like I was right there too. I watched at home, just lil’o’me, glued to the TV, blacberry nowhere in sight. Beginning around 11 am, my heart skipped many beats, or I smiled, clapped and cried – any one of these. How proud are we to be Americans right at this moment?

  • Rashidah

    Hey K — I was there too. My body is still sore for the walking and the crowds. But I have no regrets and wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.


    i actually had to stream it @ work, which was depressing… at certain points, CNN’s site actually said something along the lines of thanks for coming, too bad everyone else did too… wait until ur turn comes in line =o[ i dont remember the verbage exactly but it made me sad… i only was able to listen to the audio of it…

    i watched it that evening and it moved me to watch it… that is a cute story about ur niece though… i bet that is the first time in forever that a four year old made that type of declaration about a president…

  • NoBody Special

    I was there, working and even though it was work the feeling of accomplishment was so powerful that it made my job so more important. To ensure MY president was kept safe. This is The New World as we know it. So lets all do our part to see that the change happens.

  • This was incredible. Thank you for taking us through your experiences and emotions…I wish I’d been there. I was at home crying, laughing and celebrating! BTW that comment by your neice was adorable 🙂