Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Civil rights icon shines during inauguration

Without question, Barack Obama gave a memorable inaugural address. The inspiration continued with the benediction by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the beloved civil rights leader known to speak his mind.

The 87-year-old is considered the dean of the civil rights movement, helping lead the Montgomery bus boycotts in the 1950s and delivering a list of demands to Alabama Gov. George Wallace during the bloody Selma-Montgomery March in 1965.

Lowery opened his benediction with the first words of the Negro National Anthem, Lift Every Voice and Sing:

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears...

Lowery implored God to help Americans make "choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion not exclusion, tolerance not intolerance."

He asked that Americans cling to the spirit of fellowship embodied at the inauguration. Lowery' ended his benediction with a rhyme familiar to black churchgoers:

We ask you to help us work for that day
When black will not be asked to get in back,
When brown can stick around,
When yellow will be mellow,
When the red man can get ahead, man,
And when white will embrace what is right.
That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

The smiling crowd thundered in unison, "Amen!"

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James Manning said...

it was nice. i, like a lot of people feel good about being a part of the process that made this day possible. this time we just didn't talk but made the calls and went to the polls. it's a great day for democracy.

Deb S. said...

James: Absolutely! For me, "My Country 'Tis of Thee" (America) took on a new meaning. That song was so appropriate for the occasion.

Christina said...

Rev. Lowery left me with, uncontrollable tears. I can't explain what a feeling it was, for me to see the faces our elders on a day like this.

Deb S. said...

Christina: I know how you felt. After all, Rev. Lowery is 87 years old. I thought he was so cool!

Andre said...

I think the Good Rev could've left out of the white comments, even if they accurately reflected the sentiments of most of the black folks there. It may have energized black folk - there was a huge pop in my section - pointing out how white people 'don't get it' is not the way to pacify an already racially-intense moment.

I'm certainly not saying that Rev. should shuck and jive. We've got DL Hughley to do that for us. But, damn...at an inauguration made possible by a bunch of white people who voted for Obama in the first place? Not cool.

Deb S. said...

Andre: I understand your point. Honestly, I'm not sure that anyone, including white people, took Rev. Lowery that seriously - or literally - when they heard the rhyme.

As a rule, I think people were amused and enjoyed the moment. I didn't hear the press scrutinizing the rhyme. No one I know - white or black - said anything about it. They did chuckle. As for the people in your section, not everyone is as mature as you and I.

Andre, as always, thanks for stopping by.