By definition, the word inauguration means marking a beginning. The Free Online Dictionary says it is a formal entry into an organization, a position or an office. How befitting to hold the 2013 Presidential Inauguration in January, the first month of the new year. But if we make this inauguration merely a spectator sport, where we gather with family and friends around our television sets or join the mass pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. to stand amongst the proud as we acknowledge history in the making, we have missed a deeper understanding of what all this commemorates.
This post isn’t just about We, The People, but it’s about We, The Black People. And being that this site is comprised of brilliant, innovative, inspired Black Life Coaches and those who seek to become better as individuals and as professionals, I feel it bears to mention that this marks a beginning for us as well.
Like many of you, I have drawn comparisons between Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Barack Obama. In fact, people of all cultures have heralded President Obama as the fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream. There is something so stirring about even the mention of the immortal words, “I have a dream.” When we hear it and I’d dare say when many of our children hear it, it is fast forwarded to the jubilee part of his sermon. Today, however, I wish to bring to our remembrance the first part of it:
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity…But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. ..In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check.”
Ummm, we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. Unlike the blatant disrespect of our humanity in the 1960’s where we had been issued a check that had not been cashed, we still have an uncashed check. Before you jump to conclude that President Obama is representative of that check, I ask you to dig a little deeper. Our uncashed check, in my opinion, is one of complacency. We are the ones who have failed to cash it.
Complacency, my friends and fellow coaches, and again, I say complacency. Sure, we appear busy. We appear to be about the dream. We appear to be about service. But there is a different in busy-ness and cashing this check. It goes so much further than attending a prayer breakfast, serving at a soup kitchen or marching for a cause. It is in our attitudes. It is in how quickly we give up, shut down, pack our bags and exit stage left on the drop of a dime. Just like in Jesus’ day, the crowds said “Hosanna” one day and “Crucify him” the next. We give to get and when we don’t get it, we join those who don’t have our plight or our vision in complaint.
Certainly, I am proud of the record numbers of Black people who overwhelmed the polls all over America. Despite some being threatened by their church leaders not to vote. Despite long lines at the polls. Despite being sent on wild goose chases or being told they could not vote, our people did what the news reporters said we would not do a second time, we helped President Obama get elected to a second term. That is more than amazing to me. But if we think that’s all we needed to do and no more, then we have missed the whole point of this beginning.
We must understand this is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because we might have a couple of dollars in your pocket or a few books doesn’t make us exempt. It doesn’t make us better than our children who have to dodge bullets, care for an addicted parent and still get to school on time only to be condescended by teachers and bullied by peers of his own race. We must begin to hold ourselves to a higher standard. We must begin to secure our borders–our families, our communities. We can no longer be merely spectators who cheer when we feel President Obama is doing well and boo him when we feel he is not. He is a man. And like Martin Luther King, Jr., his true contribution will not be fully realized until he becomes part of the annals of American History.
I wasn’t an adult in the 60’s but there are things I remember. Just as President Obama is being called a Socialist, a Communist and other labels that minimize him, Dr. King was called the same, possibly even worse. He is a hero now but he wasn’t one then. I think we, as a people, forget that. He faced opposition on every turn. Sure, there were mass crowds, but there were people of color who complained that he was making things worse for us instead of better. That he needed to mind his place.
Lemme tell you something, change never comes without a fight. There is always opposition when you are forging a new path. As a coach, I caution my clients that any transition will require sweat equity and it is only in consistently showing up that they will realize their dreams. I’m sure many of you have told your clients the same thing. How can we become a part of this inauguration, this new beginning, if we cannot stand to be hosed. If we cannot stand to be pushed. If we cannot stand to be beaten with batons. If we cannot stand to be jailed. If we cannot stand to be attacked by dogs. Our parents and fore-parents experienced this firsthand. There are stories, their stories, that have not even been recorded. We may not even know what that feels like and might not even care. But I hope to shake us from the complacency of not caring or not feeling that we can make a difference.
With President Obama’s presidency, it isn’t so much physical. We are enduring mental hosings, verbal beatings with batons, racially charged words shrouded so that the intention is arguable to everyone but us, and even more insidious, jailed emotions that prevent Black men from loving the children they have sired, Black women from trusting a man again and children left to raise themselves. There is much work to do.
As Black Life Coaches, we have much work to do. We are in the business of helping people fulfill their dreams. From the boardroom to the bedroom, we offer insights, support and accountability. We stand with them. We believe in their dream. One might say we, ourselves, are guardians of the dream. So this marks the beginning for us too. We have to show up in this new year in a new and fresh way. We have to bring our A game. We have to be worthy of the value we place on the services we render.
I am not as concerned about what happens on Capitol Hill as I am about what happens on our hill. Our hill as coaches. Our hill as Black people. Our hill as Americans. Unless we fully understand what this inauguration means, we as a nation and as a people will be chasing our greed without making any real impact in this world. This is a call from your sister coach to make a commitment to excellence, to showing up, to investing in the dream. This is a call to take your place in this, our inauguration.