Black President, Y’all

Taking stock of a few items from the historic occasion.


It would have been too risky for the first black president to completely flip the script on inaugural protocol the first time out. Wouldn’t it have been nice to see Barack Obama stride to the podium in a stately East African tunic, complete with headgear and wooden staff?  But my Zamunda-styled fantasy inauguration, complete with hula dancers, mariachis, Buju Banton, King Sunny Adé, and the full original lineup of Cameo will have to wait. Maybe if he gets re-elected.

For his second inaugural, Obama might want to seriously consider a more tropical locale for the festivities: perhaps a Super Bowl-style, regional inaugural hosting schedule rotating between New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, and Honolulu, with San Juan, Atlanta, Houston and Las Vegas as alternates. Short of that, we need to start thinking about holding this bad boy on Juneteenth, because Washington, D.C. in January is just too damn cold.

Now that the moment has arrived, let’s take stock of a few items from the historic occasion:

Barack Hussein Obama

It wasn’t a huge news item at the time, with Christmas, the flailing economy and Gov. Sarah “look at me” Palin sucking up news cycles over the last month, but yes, he will be taking the oath of office using his full name, including “Hussein,” the moniker that has people from Cairo to Dar es Salaam saying, “What’s the big deal?—that’s the name of half the people on my block.”

Although “Barack Hussein Obama” (with vitriolic oomph on “Hussein”) was a cowardly smear, poorly executed by more than one of Obama’s detractors during the ’08 campaign, there are two salient concepts everyone in this nation of immigrants should bear in mind on Inauguration Day.

First, we need a great president right now, and, for some reason, presidential greatness seems to come with three initials, so I’m confident that FDR and JFK would have been happy to welcome “BHO” to the club. Second, Barack Hussein Obama has, frankly, an obligation to acknowledge a precious gift that few African Americans can claim: his own African name, given to him at birth—not one he adopted as an adult after gaining cultural consciousness, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Muhammad Ali, and not the placeholder name that most African Americans have, like Malcolm Little or LeRoi Jones, an unfortunate byproduct of slavery.

The Purpose Driven Inauguration