Minneapolis Urban League hosts second inauguration celebration


On Monday, January 21, doors opened at 9:30 am at the Glover-Sudduth Center located in North Minneapolis for a community celebration like no other.

Volunteers of the Minneapolis Urban League Guild and Young Professionals hosted a community event in conjunction with the 57th Presidential Inauguration: “A Celebration of How Far We’ve Come.” The event was free and open to the public.

Attendees enjoyed breakfast, lunch, and community networking while watching a live broadcast of the swearing-in of President Barack Obama to his second term of office. This year’s inauguration theme was “Faith in America’s Future.”

The official swearing-in of President Obama and Vice President Biden occurred on Sunday, Jan. 20 in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, but the actual inauguration ceremony was held the next day. Historically, inaugural ceremonies are not held on Sundays because courts and other public institutions are not open.

This was the second inaugural watch hosted by the MUL. In 2009, over 200 people gathered at the League’s Glover Sudduth Center to watch Barack Obama being sworn-in as the country’s first African American president. It was anticipated that just as many if not more would attend this year’s inaugural watch, but very cold weather may have contributed to a smaller turnout this time around.

The -10 degree weather couldn’t keep away the nearly 100 people that showed up at this second inaugural event at the same location, the MUL in North Minneapolis, to watch the inaugural festivities on two big screens.

Everyone from adult couples to kids watched the inauguration intently. Men wore suits and ties, while women wore dresses and sparkling colorful sequined tops to mark the occasion. The mood was celebratory, upbeat and peaceful.

Several of the attendees even sang aloud as musical artists performed during the inauguration. There was joyful cheering, there was laughter, and at least one woman couldn’t help but say, admiring Obama with supreme pride, “Ah, look at him.”

The times during President Obama’s speech when he talked about hardship, poverty, and equal pay brought on the loudest cheers and clapping from the audience.

Scott Gray, the president/CEO of the Minneapolis Urban League, said a few words after the first half of the inaugural events and invited everyone to stay for lunch. “This is a great day,” said Gray, “but we are all citizens of this county, right? So, we heard this throughout the speech: We are citizens of this country…of the United States of America. So, tomorrow we’ve got to deal with the debt ceiling. We have to deal with the healthcare exchange. We have to deal with the war in Afghanistan. We’ve got to deal with a number of things, right?

“We’ve got to come together and be citizens,” Gray continued. “We have to help our president do the right thing for our country. Whether you’re Republican or Democrat, we got to do the right thing for this country. Are y’all with me?”

The crowd roared back, “Yeah!” Gray also thanked members of the guild who were present for putting on the day’s festivities. “We just want to thank you for being here, for caring so much for what we need to do here in America. And we’re not just going to take this as a soap opera. We want to see a real ending to this.”

Teresa Douglas, project director with the Job Corps/CHP International, attended a number of events held in St. Paul before attending the event at the MUL. Asked what she thought of Obama’s second inaugural speech, she replied, “I thought it was direct. I liked some of the quotes he took from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”

In addition, Douglas said she thought the turnout at the inauguration was great, even though they said it was much smaller than four years ago. Speaking of the MUL event, Douglas said, “It was interesting to hear the group that I was sitting behind commenting throughout and how there was clapping after different things were said by different speakers, not just the president.”

The president of the MUL Guild, Winnie Sudduth Brown, was extremely pleased with how the event turned out. “Turnout is not as great as last year, but if only two people had shown up, it still would have been wonderful. Just to share the experience for the second time, and the comaraderie and social networking… I was very pleased with the turnout,” said Brown.

She added that she thought the president’s address was right on the mark: “He highlighted a lot of the controversy that we know is going on between him and [John] Boehner… What I took from his message is basically that we need to grow up and not take it personally. Our decisions and our goals should be for the country, not for any individual,” Brown said.

This year’s event celebrated more than the inauguration of the President of the United States; it also served as a chance to reflect on how far we’ve come as a country. January 21 was also the day the nation celebrated the birthday of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So, while people watched with pride — for the second time — the first African American president being inaugurated, they also recognized Dr. King’s life, legacy and dream for America.

At age 80, Naima Richmond, a Northside resident, recalled being at the MUL four years ago for the first inauguration of the president. “There were more people [four years ago], more excitement, especially for those that didn’t get there the first time, but I’m just as excited for them this time.” Richmond attended David T. Howard Elementary School in Atlanta with Dr. King.

Robin James welcomes reader responses to rjames@spokesman-recorder.com.