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!

—Kenrya

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