What January 20th Means to Me
It’s midnight on January 20, 2017, and I should be elated because today is my birthday. Instead, I am actively fighting feelings of devastation and loss. I feel like I’ve been robbed of my hope and my identity. You see, I’ve come of age as a young Black American during the election and leadership of the first Black President of the United States. Like so many others, I feel as if he and I have a deep friendship, and I remember our best moments like they were yesterday: casting my ballot for him in the first election in which I was old enough to vote; witnessing Joe Biden come to my university for the Vice Presidential debates; and jumping for joy when I realized Barack Obama would be inaugurated on my 19th birthday…
That day, January 20, 2009 was the best day of my life. I had traveled to Washington D.C. without my family (a big milestone for a teenager) in order to witness history being made. I huddled with complete strangers in frigid temperatures on the National Mall, sang Negro spirituals, and waited for the sun to rise and the inauguration of our first Black President to begin. When daylight finally came, and the ceremony started, my heart was filled with joy. My ancestors had not suffered in vain. America was our country, too. We were included in the American dream… these emotions combined with the fresh hope of turning a year older were pure magic.
This magic of President Obama has continued every day for me since. How lucky I have felt. How hopeful I have felt. How included I have felt. How American I have felt. Now it feels as if the incoming president is taking the magic away… I turn 27 today… I mourn today… but we persevere. I choose to remember the strength of my people and my life-changing experience during the inauguration of President Barack Obama instead.