Thursday, January 15, 2009

Counting Today

Counting today, there are 5 days between then and now and, frankly, I can barely wait!
by Charlie Leck

I am trying to think of any day in my life that might have had the strength of historical implication and significance that 20 January 2009 will have.
Those days of World War II when Pearl Harbor was attacked, when our troops went ashore at Normandy, when Germany and Hitler fell, and when Japan Surrendered? Perhaps!

That awful day, 22 November 1963, when the assassin’s bullet killed a young and exciting President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy? Maybe!

The day, 8 August 1974, that Richard Millhouse Nixon became the first President to resign from office in disgrace? I think not!

The April day in 1968 when Martin Luther King, Jr. fell dead on the balcony of a motel in Memphis, Tennessee, the victim of a sniper? It was dreadful!
An African-America will assume the office of President of the United States of America on Tuesday morning – only 5 days from today, counting today – 20 January 2009.

The horrible, filthy and crowded slave ships are now only a dim spot in history! The Africans aboard them were not treated as humans and not even as well as animals would have been cared for. The institution of slavery, the great sin of our fathers, became our national shame. Our treatment of the descendents of those slaves over the next four centuries remains our national disgrace and the great sin of the sons of our fathers.

I’ll repeat myself. Counting today, in 5 days, a man with African blood – a man of color – will take the oath of office and assume his place as President of the United States. He is not descended from a southern slave. His father was a Kenyan of pure African blood, born on the shores of Lake Victoria, in the small village of Nyang’oma Kogelo. His remains were buried in that village in 1982.

I expect that on Tuesday, 5 days from today, counting today, there will be some spirits looking on and they will be at peace.

The father of the man, Barack Obama Senior, and his mother, Ann Dunham, a white woman, and her mother, the man’s grandmother, will be watching too.

Martin Luther King, Jr. will be smiling. He had been to the mountain top and had looked over to the other side. He had seen this day coming. He knew, unlike any of us, that it was near. On the night before he was murdered, he said:
"He's allowed me to go up to the mountain.

"And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

"And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man!

"Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"
On Tuesday, Mickey Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman will be there, looking on also and, as I will, they will shed some tears of happiness.

The slaves will be there as well. The spirits of those who died aboard the ships and were tossed, without ceremony or identity, into the rugged sea. They will look down and they’ll be singing African songs of joy and victory. And a giant chorus of all those slaves, who did not live long enough to taste the sweetness of freedom, will sing the soft quiet songs they hummed as they picked the white man’s cotton.

"Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

I looked over Jordan and what did I see
Coming for to carry me home
A band of angels coming after me
Coming for to carry me home

Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Coming for to carry me home

Sometimes I'm up and sometimes I'm down
Coming for to carry me home
But still my soul feels heavenly bound
Coming for to carry me home

Booker T. Washington, W.F.B Du Bois and Marcus Garvey will look on in utter happiness and listen intently to the new President’s inaugural speech. As will A. Philip Randolph.

James Farmer, Edward Brooke and Thurgood Marshall will watch the swearing in with special reverence and interest.

And Malcolm X, too. He’ll be there and he’ll laugh and cheer! And, Stokely Carmichael. And Medgar Evers. And Emmet Till.

Some artists and writers will gather together and look over at the events of the day with great interest. Among them will be Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Arna Bontemps, Jean Toomer, Bayard Rustin, James Baldwin and Paul Robeson.

Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Satch Paige, Arthur Ashe and Joe Louis will be watching, too.

So will Ella Fitzgerald, Marian Anderson and Ertha Kitt. Mahalia will be warming up her pipes. Muddy Waters will be peeking over and watching it all. Thelonios wouldn't miss it! And Satchmo will be carrying his trumpet, getting it ready for the evening parties.

Abe will be there as well. He’ll want to hear the tall, lanky, big-eared guy from Illinois, who is supposed to be a speaker as remarkable as he was himself.

An inauguration for the ages!
This is not just any inauguration. This is an inauguration for the ages. The ceremony will fully ratify the dream of the nation and those recorded words that created it, confirming once and finally that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

And perhaps those founding fathers, who signed those words and sent them off to the repressive King of England, may be watching, too, and winking at one another and whispering softly: “I told you so!”

Friends, this day coming on now in 5 days, counting today, may turn out to be the most momentous day in the history of the union – no less just in our time alone!

Wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, stop when this man of African blood raises his hand and puts the other upon the same old Bible upon which Abe himself swore his sacred oath; and listen with keen attention as he swears the words that will sound across the nation and beyond the seas to far off lands and peoples who will watch in utter disbelief. Hopes will be raised around the entire world. What once seemed improbable and even impossible will no longer seem so -- not to any child across the wide, wide world.

"America, this is your moment!"

America, you are coming of age and fulfilling your promise and I am proud of you. So proud!
A remarkable column in today's NY Times (Return of the Natives) explains the Native American reaction to Tuesday's inauguration of Barack Obama. It is very much worth your time to read it. [click here]

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