This Feels Like Family: The Obama Inauguration and Beyond

By Kathryn Stanley 1-15-2009

As my mother and I prepare to "Thelma and Louise-it" to travel to Washington for the Obama inauguration, my excitement is tempered with anxiety. A native Washingtonian, I know the city very well and will be staying within walking distance of the festivities. Nevertheless, I am anxious about being able to drive into the city, the weather, and even about how I can get to the bathroom amidst the crowd. I also wonder whether security can handle the crowd as well as any detractors for whom this day represents their very worst fears.

Yet as I think of the journey, which began nearly two years ago in Springfield, Illinois, it has, indeed, been an exciting and anxiety-filled time. For me, the campaign represented a test on how far we have come on the race question that has haunted us for centuries. Would whites "overlook" race and vote for Obama? Would blacks redefine for ourselves the breadth of what it means to be African American? Would Jeremiah Wright's misunderstood rhetoric ruin Obama's chances? Would the hope that I saw in so many children's eyes be dashed? If Obama lost, would those who became politically active for the first time become despondent once again?

As I stood on election night amongst a rainbow of people in Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- praising, worshipping, and watching CNN -- my questions were partly answered. When the results flashed that Obama had won, I shouted wildly "Thank you, God! The 'hope and dream of the slave' has been realized." I also cried, "Oh, Lord!" and felt haunted by Dr. King's rhetorical question: Where Do We Go From Here?

King's question was answered in part during the holidays, during my mother's family and friends' holiday celebration when at some point my six-year-old God-son Jason said to his parents, "This feels like family." Not a philosophical statement at first blush given that nearly all his immediate family was present. It was, however, the mix of others in the room that made Jason's statement so profound. For therein sat a Catholic nun, a biracial young man with a hip-hop swagger, an interracial same-sex couple, Katrina evacuees, black, white, Protestants, and Catholics, ages five to nearly 65 years old, all singing carols about the Great Liberator. Through familiar songs, Jason heard only love through the voices of God's children.

I hope that January 20, 2009, and beyond will also "feel like family." Like all families, we will have differences and dysfunction. Yet, I hope that we will sit at the table of humanity together, working to end poverty and other social injustices. I hope that all that we do as a nation henceforth will be rooted in a love for all humankind. Our legacy and destiny inextricably linked, I hope that we finally recognize in the words of President Barack Hussein Obama, "We are one

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