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Wednesday, April 24, 2024 | Back issues
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Southern Ball Continued

On inauguration eve, my girlfriends and I attended a "Refresh the World" Symposium, which was co-sponsored by movie director Spike Lee and Pepsi, at Howard University. Howard University is a historically black university. During the election cycle, I have become a CNN junkie, and attending the symposium was like being in the CNN studios sans my beloved Anderson Cooper. (Incidentally, I learned on this trip that many black women are in love with CNN commentator David Gergen. Apparently, his character and rational tone of voice is a lethal aphrodisiac!)

The symposium attracted CNN heavy hitters including: Roland Martin, Bay Buchanan, Hilary Rosen, Donna Brazile and Amy Holmes. Black celebrities including Sean Combs aka Diddy, Queen Latifah, Christopher Bridges aka Ludacris were among the panelists. Black political leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton and Dr. Cornel West were also panelists. And we attended for free! Although my voice was gone at this point, I was elated to be there.

The next day was the main event. My girlfriends and I hoped that attending the concert that Sunday was a dry run for Tuesday. But the wall-to-wall packed Metro train at 6 a.m. told us we had no idea what to expect. On the train, I met a Britisher, who now lives in Atlanta. BJ Webb, 46, actually had an inauguration ticket and allowed me to take a picture of the day's most prized possession. Webb said he was excited when he found out that he secured a ticket.

"I phoned all of my relatives in England," said Webb. "I will be able to tell my kids and grandkids that I was a part of an event that will change the world."

Since many of the Metro stations were closed probably due to the massive crowd, we were forced to exit at a completely unfamiliar station. By asking officers armed with large guns, following crowds through tree branches and other debris, making our way around tall fencing, we were finally able to find our way to the mall.

Although daylight was just starting to break, there were already thousands of people there. Somehow as we tried to get to the JumboTron closest to where the inauguration ceremony would be held, I managed to lose my friends.

I searched for them for a few minutes before resigning myself to being alone for most of the day. It was too cold, and I still couldn't speak. I tried to call them on my cell phone, but due to the amount of people in the city, using a cell was hit but mostly miss endeavor. By the time I staked out my spot, I still had at least two hours to wait.

It was so cold, I thought I would faint. I was grumpy as people bumped into me especially people who blocked my view of the JumboTron. But then I realized that I could get warm if they filled in around me so I tried to make nice.

Once the music started signaling the beginning of the inauguration telecast, I started to feel better. Plus, the jubilant screams of the crowd around me also helped to change my mood. I managed to talk with some of my neighbors even as I grimaced.

Shirley Foster, 53, of New Albany, Miss., rode a charter bus up to DC for the day and would be boarding the bus to get back home once the ceremony was over.

"It feels great to be a part of history. I wouldn't rather be any other place than here."

I felt the same way and tried to remember that sentiment once the ceremony was over, and I had to figure out how to navigate through the millions of the people and find my way back to my Arlington hotel room, where my friends and I planned to meet if we got separated. I must have walked for miles as I tried to find a Metro station that was open. About two hours or more hours later, I was back at the hotel room.

I had actually arrived there before my friends. That night, the frustration of the day melted as I saw the Obamas in person at the Southern Ball!

As we drove home the next day, I realized that I was exhausted and still sick, but I knew I had witnessed one of America's great events- akin to Lincoln's signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington. It feels so great to be an American...

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