January 24, 2013

By Thandisizwe Chimurenga

LAWT Contributing Writer


During the bleakest moment since the Great Depression, Barack H. Obama took his oath by placing his left on the Lincoln Bible, but this week when the first African American president of the United States took the oath for his second term in office he did so on the national holiday for the renowned civil rights ambassador Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

As resolute this week as he was four years ago, President Obama began his historical second term amid a rebounding economy with his attention firmly focused on the issues of gun control, climate change, the economy, immigration reform, gay rights and foreign policy.

The President took the official oath of office for his second term as established by the U.S. constitution the on Sunday, Jan. 20, in a private ceremony at the White House with his wife and daughters standing by his side.

The public ceremony, complete with a parade and presidential motorcade, took place on the federally recognized holiday of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birth, Monday, Jan. 21. 

The crowd in attendance, estimated to be around 700,000, was still sizeable for a blistery cold winter District of Columbia day, but did not reach the heights of the monumental 2 million people who attended the President’s first swearing-in ceremony four years ago.

While the euphoria of that first ceremony seems to have subsided there were still millions of supporters who watched the festivities at home or in public groupings.

One of the Presidents staunch supporters Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-CA 37), noted the historic significance of the inauguration of the first African American president being sworn in on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday.

 “As I look on today and watch President Obama take his oath of office, I’ll be thinking of how we can all work together to further the vision Dr. King gave his life for,” she stated.  “Dr. King and many foot soldiers like him made it possible for an African American to hold the highest office in our nation.  Regardless of your political affiliations – I think we can all agree that today marks a moment where it’s clear America has moved mightily toward the promised land Dr. King preached so eloquently about.”

The congresswoman continued, “In this spirit, we must renew ourselves to work each and every day to fulfill that vision.  It begins by making a commitment to remedy many of the social ills that continue to lock far too many Americans out of the American Dream.”

The Los Angeles Urban League released a statement indicating the organization joins with the rest of the nation in collectively celebrating the future course that has been set.  “[President Obama] cannot do it alone. We will lift him up and work together to make America what we want it to be, what it can be and what it will secure for the benefit of generations to come.”

Representative Marcia L. Fudge, (D-OH 11), the current chair of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) echoed the words of Congresswoman Bass and LAUL adding that both she “…and Members of the CBC also look forward to working with the President and our colleagues in Congress on ways to strengthen the foundation laid by Dr. King and on ensuring his dream remains a source of inspiration and guidance for everyone’s reality.”

Locally, Isidra Person Lynn, a communications and technology consultant, viewed the day’s happenings at Derrick’s Jamaican Cuisine in Ladera Heights where she says she and about 50 others were “riveted” to President Obama's dynamic speech.  “I enjoyed seeing the diverse America I live in on display so we can truly see ourselves as we are. If only for one day, it all blended together so well, she said. 

Political commentator Jasmyne Cannick was one of several people who viewed the inauguration via large screen television at Buffalo Wild Wings. The mood at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza-area eatery appeared to be one of contentment, satisfaction and hope that issues not addressed in President Obama’s first term would now receive his full and undivided attention.   

“My expectations are that he address the issue of reparations for African Americans and the issue of the poor, because this administration like previous ones seems so concerned about Middle America, but never seems to talk about the people outside of that, said Cannick. 

“I also hope that we will have an intelligent dialogue in the African American community about Gay Marriage,” Cannick continued.  “More proactive than reactive.  I believe that the president can be the catalyst to start that type of conversation.”

Immigrant Rights advocates also gathered in the Pico-Union district to view the inauguration At the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights’ (CHIRLA) office Isabel Medina, an undocumented immigrant, said she was hopeful that Pres. Obama would honor his pledge to take positive action on the issue of immigration reform. Medina, the mother of three, has been in the U.S. for more than 15 years.  Her two youngest children were born here however her oldest child is also un-documented.  As part of the Deferred Action program that Pres. Obama approved last year, Medina’s oldest child will be able to attend college and not have to worry about deportation.  “That’s only for two years,” Medina told television station KCAL-9. “What’s going to happen after those two years?”

In Gardena, Black and Latino activists also watched the inauguration at the offices of Good JobsLA, nonprofit organization that works to “hold wealthy corporations accountable to pay their fair share, create good jobs, and invest in the future of our communities,” according to the group’s website. An essay by Steve Askin, Research Director of the organization,  posted to the website after the President’s inaugural address, listed suggestions for the President to “redirect the U.S. economy toward justice,” such as increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 per hour; restore full employment with a massive public investment program; reduce the non-war military budget to the Bush-era level; investing in high-quality, universal early childhood education; and adopting what it called “the common sense tax proposals in Vermont Senator Bernie Sander’s deficit reduction plan.”  Those proposals call for ending all tax breaks for oil, gas and coal companies, and those companies that move jobs overseas, imposing an emergency surtax on millionaires, and making Wall Street pay an extra tax on the swaps, derivatives and other speculative investments that crashed our economy, amongst other things.

The president will now turn his attention to the issues of gun control, climate change, the economy, immigration reform, gay rights and foreign policy.

Kokayi Kwa Jitahidi, president of the South L.A. Power Coalition which provides training and political education for South Los Angeles residents to increase their civic engagement outcomes, was also interested in the issues that the president would tackle now that the festivities of the inauguration have worn off.  While acknowledging that gay and lesbian, immigration and environmental constituents rightfully pressed for their issues to be heard, he expressed his concern about the Black community’s mandate for President Obama’s final term in office.  “President Obama has about 1 year to effectively move anything before he becomes a lame duck … We have given the president a pass as it relates to our specific needs because so many of us are extremely sensitive to what we perceive as racist obstructionist tactics employed by Republicans,” said Kwa Jitahadi.  “This time around, we have to pressure [Pres. Obama] around our demands.”

Kenneth Miller contributed to this story.

Category: News