Black President, Y’all

Taking stock of a few items from the historic occasion.

The hubbub surrounding Obama’s selection of the Rev. Rick Warren for the inaugural invocation has died down, but the bad vibes linger, particularly within the LGBT community. It’s “above my pay grade,” but I think Obama should have skipped on Warren. It would have been easier to not go there, and then have some maneuvering room to move more substantive issues like “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Instead, Obama’s bought himself the anger of an impatient and vocal segment of his base. But at least, the Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery of “good crazy” fame will give the benediction.

On The Pulse of Poetry

And finallly, everyone is a little bit curious, but not altogether fired up about inaugural poet and friend of Barack, Elizabeth Alexander. She’s an excellent poet, author, professor and surely an inspired humanitarian. She might even blow us all away with her words come Inauguration Day. But I have to wonder: Obama is the first hip-hop president; with the sly husband/wife dap on the night of his Democratic primary victory speech and his enviable three-point stroke, Obama has brought youth culture to the White House on a level few could have imagined a short time ago. In keeping with that spirit, it would have been smooth if he had chosen a rapper as his inaugural bard.

Kanye West is too meteoric, Twista is a little too much at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, but there’s a third Chicagoan with lyrical chops; he’s commercial, but not too commercial, Purple Label with a little Argyle Culture thrown in. He’s Will Smith clean without being Will Smith corny, and we last saw him repping for HIV awareness on MTV. That sounds about right, right?—Common, a man of the people, reciting a poem for the people.

Either way, today it’s jumping off in D.C. like it never has before. My father-in-law got tickets to the swearing-in ceremony from his congressman, and he generously gave them up so that my mother could attend in person. Up to this point, I’ve been largely unemotional about the cosmic significance of the first black president. But when mom said “I missed the March on Washington, and I’m not going to miss this,” it got to me. That brought it all home.

Black president, y’all. Enjoy.

David Swerdlick is a regular contributor to The Root.