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Mills women reflect on witnessing historic day

Shivering and with a hoarse voice, I can describe my thoughts on the inauguration as a surreal moment, as I was standing in the large crowd of onlookers during a moment in history that has given way to different and amazing, new realities. It was strange in a way, because behind me in the distance was the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and others in past history made their claim for all the hopes and dreams for this country: to provide opportunities for all to seek.

And right before me, another individual of our time, the now 44th President of the United States, was beginning to set another incredible foundation that would make way for more leaders from every background to participate, to take this responsibility that Obama set for our country.

Yes, I can say I was there and lived in the moment, screaming and applauding with tears in my eyes, watching the amazing endeavor as Obama took his oath of office that very morning of Jan. 20th. I came to the realization that this new change and hope in our country was not dependent on this one man as a leader; this era was about all of us as a community standing together to create a more fulfilled place to live as proclaimed in our constitution. President Obama has made the ideals set in our country a more tangible path to walk on, and now it is our turn as leaders in our own right to continue to build this road set in this amazing time. Going to the inauguration really opened my eyes to how extremely gratified and thankful I am to live in this time and age, where if I ever have children, I can tell them I was there to see this moment of hope and change.

Sitting at a table in Founders a few days after that thoughtful Tuesday morning, distant travelers from Mills on a Mission found it strange to reminisce about their experience at the inauguration.

Junior Ashley Grant, who was there in the middle of the crowd as Obama took his oath of office said, “It was amazing and quite overwhelming, with the amount of people there, and I just felt a lot of change and growth that Obama has brought to this country.”

Jabrilla Carr, a junior who recently did an exchange program in Washington D.C., said, “The inauguration represents a new beginning for America. The reason I went was because of the energy and excitement when Obama was elected, and I just knew that I needed to be there when he was sworn in the same area.”

Rochelle Rainey, a junior who was a first time visitor to the D.C. area, talked about the overwhelming experience of the travel situation for the group she was with. “Travel was ridiculous, there were way too many people everywhere. And on the ride back there were too many people on the Metro; it was packed, and there was a long line to take the bus. So we had to take a taxi that was supposed to only cost 3.00, but it ended up being $50!”

Despite the overcrowding and unsafe traveling conditions, Mills on a Mission women had a memorable time, experiencing one of many of the greatest moments in history. Jabrilla Carr ended her thoughts with the impact on legacies to come, “When we celebrate this day [the inauguration], I can say I was there, I can tell my future children that I was there.”

– Morgan Ross, junior

My country tis of thee, sweet land of liberty of thee I sing….

Today I became an American..

An American amongst over 2 million people from around the world

Strangers with familiar faces and spirits. A part of a real “pilgrimage”

The day I became an American I was up at 4:00 a.m. at the Carrolton metro stop by quarter to five.

Cold wind, dark grey sky, but the brightest place on the planet that day

Voices asked gently but with excitement:

Where are you from? Why are you here? Can you believe this?

Babies as young as 5 months old

Elders in their 80’s, some equipped with walkers and oxygen tanks and everyone in between

That day we were all headed to the same place

A detour back to the promises of the U.S. Constitution ” we the people in order to form a more perfect union establish just and ensure domestic tranquility”

The day I became an American you could taste equality mixed in with a several batches of hope to wash away the stains of oppression steeped into the hearts of many

The day I became an American we all did really Audre Lorde (1984) describes us as

Those of us who stand outside of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish (p. 112, italics in original).

That day we all became not only American but world citizens

Pushing through the crowd to the metro an unbreakable link with humanity that day

The crowd was massive, the cold bitter, entry into gates unpredictable

Overwhelmed but determined we headed to a house filled with generations of civil rights pioneers and freedom fighters

You see the day I became and American the revolution was televised

I saw it in on TV in D.C. at Daphne Muse’s Brothers house

I saw it through Daphne’s tears and her 80 something year old mother’s joy

We walked with cold feet and warm hearts

They were warmed up from all the days before

Mills Alumni event on L street in the heart of it all

10 Mills students represented through activism, service and participation

The day I became an American I had the songs from the concert that Sunday before when we stood on the National Mall and heard: Stevie, Usher, Garth, Beyonce’ and Heather “sing America”

The weather did not stop us it was a lead up to the day I became an American

Me an American from the E. St. Louis. IL the networks don’t show that America on TV

A descendant of Slavery

But January 20, 2009 the revolution was televised

Yes that day I became an American

– Joi Lewis, Dean of Students

Having the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for the first time and to stay for 9 days was a great experience in and of itself, but what I have found most memorable about this trip is the extraordinary energy that filled our nation’s capital on inauguration day.

On Jan. 20, 2009, the metro stations and the metro cars were just about filled to capacity by 4:15 a.m. Thousands of people were packed together, but it felt not like a plethora of strangers, but as a great family, coming together for a beautiful and joyous reunion. It was as if we were all in this task together-this task of freezing, being patient, and trying to contain our anxiety and excitement all at the same time.

While the 7 Mills On A Mission women that made this trek together in the wee hours of the morning were some of the first people to arrive at the general public entrance into the national mall, we discovered-after nearly 5 hours of waiting-that not a single person was being let through this entrance. The crowd was becoming increasingly anxious and frustrated, steadily pushing forward, so that everyone was so packed together that we literally did not have to make any effort to remain standing; we were held up by the crowd.

The Mills On A Mission women needed a warming station and a restroom, so we decided to make a human chain to pull each other out of the line and tried to find entry into the National Mall elsewhere. We found initial refuge at a local McDonald’s, but of course, the line for the women’s restroom was out the door and across the restaurant. So what did the women decide to do? Start using the stalls in the men’s restroom as well, of course.

Pretty soon there was almost no distinction between the two bathroom lines. Everybody was just happy, giggling, and shouting things like “Change has been brought to the McDonald’s bathrooms!” and “Changing the inequality of bathroom lines!” Never in my life have I experienced anything like this, especially not at a place as public and random as a McDonald’s. And this is just one example of the brilliant aura that was present all across Washington.

Everywhere we went that day, although we did not know the people around us, they did not seem like strangers. All of the hundreds of thousands of people running around the streets of Washington D.C. that day were connected by a common goal-to be the change that we wanted to see in the world-and a common perspective: that change was occurring and that we made it happen.

The fact that the inauguration crowd was estimated to be about 2 million people, and that there was not a single inauguration-related arrest, demonstrates how truly amazing this crowd was and what wonderful energy was being transmitted throughout our nation’s capitol city that day. This is something to be proud of, something I am so thankful to have experienced, and something that I will absolutely never forget.

– Mariah Olivera, freshwoman

There are so many observations one could make about this event-the deep satisfaction of seeing an African American ascend to the country’s highest office, the enormous benefit of having a leader who has lived abroad and who is not crippled by an ethnocentric world view, the relief of knowing that policy decisions will take scientific evidence into account-the list goes on.

If I had to focus on one thing, it would be my hope that our new president’s appreciation for the role of government and his ability to energize and inspire people will help us reverse the decades-long disrespect for and resulting decline of our public sector. There are things the private sector does very well, but there are many social tasks that require public direction, oversight and/or intervention, and for this we need a strong public sector rooted in a participatory democracy. Most critically, we need to understand that we are all in this together, and we must find a way to come together not only to solve our problems, but also to articulate a common vision for our shared future.

I think President Obama appreciates these imperatives and has the skill and temperament to help us do what we need to do.

– Carol Chetkovich, Public Policy