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A Great Day In Harlem

There were several mistakes I readily admit regarding my uselessness role in the Obama candidacy for President:

  • When asked several times by several people to get involved - people who are aware of my qualifications and ability to organize and mobilize, I didn't. I had my reasons back in 2007 that reached all the way into the middle of 2008. But I can't tell right now what they were. Not even if I tried hard. Translation: I had no excuse. Who knows what doors I could have opened by building relationships with people from all over this nation (or at least the state of New York)? Now, I'll never know. Or rather, I'll have to wait until a similar opportunity comes around. If it comes around.
  • On the night of his historic election, my wife and I began planning how to get involved; how to get down to D.C. to be a witness to history. Fast forward to last week when nearly everyone we know began their exodus from New York to D.C. we sat by in a morass of indecision and inaction rooted in the fact that the Inauguration on it's face didn't seem very kid-friendly (at least not in the baby department). I'm sure had we tried hard enough we could've found a way around this and several other minor bumps in our quest to be an eyewitness to history. But we did not. We settled for nothing.
Stewing in a funk of my own creation I lamented over this debacle I brought on myself and decided that somehow, no matter what, I was not going to sit on a couch by myself watching a television on Inauguration Day. I set my Facebook status offering (begging) to connect with friends. I sent a text message out to as many people as I could to see if they'd be willing to indulge in a day of history and camaraderie.

To spare you the responses I got, everyone said no. As I struggled with the reality that I was going to spend yet another momentous occasion alone, I began to think of my family. I didn't want my son sitting up in a classroom with a teacher I really don't know explaining to him what was going on. I not only wanted him to be amongst people who represent the spectrum of ethnicities that represent America, but I really wanted him to be around men that look like his father and himself. I wanted him to see and feel the power of that collective body en masse as I have at various points in my own life.

My wife was convinced our daughter would be oblivious, and besides, she contended, it was too cold. Our daughter has been calling Obama's name since before we ever mentioned it to her. She runs to his picture on the television and recognizes his voice on the radio. As we were discussing it babygirl screamed, "Pres-dent Barrack OOhbama!" There was no way I wasn't taking her with me.

So with no real plan, I kept my son home from school and my daughter home from daycare and headed down to Harlem. I was intent on experiencing something.

I landed on 125th Street at 11:30 in the morning with my daughter riding piggyback and joined the crowd at the State Building on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard.

We remained here until President Barack Hussein Obama (#44) was sworn in.

The next stop was Amy Ruth's, a few blocks away, for some soul food. I met up with friends and their family. My baby --- after being angelic at the swearing in --- decided to go through personality 1 - 13 at the table. But I was happy to see my too-cool son being social.

Our last stop on this historic day was the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. All six of us and my daughter, now asleep after her wild lunch, walked the exhibition hall looking at a collection a great photos covering the President's historic run from the time that he announced his candidacy, through to November 4, 2008.

By night's end my children and I enjoyed a great day in Harlem soaking up the history of this Presidential Inauguration and the culture of the community. I repeatedly told my children I loved them. My daughter told me she loved me back. My son just looked at me. But that's okay. I did the same thing when I was his age.

My one regret was not being able to share the day with my wife, especially since I had our kids with me. She had to work and couldn't get uptown in time to meet me. I tried to meet her after work and that didn't go well either, so apparently it wasn't meant to be. I visited my mother-in-law, since I couldn't visit my own in Chicago, hugged and kissed her, watched some of the parade, and chatted with her briefly about the future before heading home.

At the end of the night, my daughter, pigtails fried and frazzled after a day out with daddy, summed it up best (without too much coaching) on my grainy, awful webcam:

Enough said.

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