Margaret Busby - in Washington, America
What a week! I'm now at Dulles Airport waiting to take our plane back to Blighty, so to while away an hour I'm checking in with you one last time from DC.
You haven't heard from me in the past few days not just because I have been stunned into silence by momentous political events but because I was poleaxed by some debilitating virus that was targeting my family one by one, manifesting itself in permutations of symptoms including nausea, stomach upsets, throwing up, the runs ….
It's possible we picked up something in the National Mall on Tuesday, Inauguration Day, when we joined the streams of people heading for the Capitol or as close as they could get, just to feel a part of history. I was with my sister Eileen and our friend Andrea, at whose place we had stayed overnight to be within walking distance, and we actually got quite close, coming from the south-west — most streets approaching from other directions were already blocked off by security (Andrea's sister Lita had to abandon plans to watch from an office in Pennsylvania Avenue).
Figures of those thronging on the Mall - including those looking for vantage points in the trees — were put at close to two million, but it could easily have been more. As the crowd began to surge almost dangerously, we decide to repair to Andrea's mother's apartment on Delaware Street to watch on TV. ("The size of the crowd will never be matched in our lifetime," said one commentator.) (Miraculously, there were in fact absolutely no major incidents or problems, as we later learned.)
The emotional high rose second by second, through anthem, poetry, prayer and song. I'm sure you saw everything that we did on television — Aretha Franklin's soul-stirring My Country 'Tis of Thee, Elizabeth Alexander's Praise Song for the Dead, Rev. Joseph Lowery's prayer — leading up to the pinch-me-in-case-I'm-dreaming swearing-in of the first Black and 44th US President. "I finally feel I'm part of my country," said Andrea's sister Lita.
A sense of optimism and hope is everywhere among those I've met.
"Brother's gonna work it out," was one young Black man's reassurance. How recent is the time when everyone thought that the closest a Black man would ever get to the White House would be as a butler?
Andrea recalled talking to a local Black octagenarian, Mr Miller, who had come to Washington in 1936 (unbelievably, the year of Andrea's youthful mother's birth) when a Black man could not vote at all.
In the past couple of years, White people as much as Black people have worked for this victory.
We managed an appearance at the Africa Inspire ball in the evening (entertainment by Les Nubians, Akon, Jeffrey Wright), where I saw Valerie Amos again, also Chief Emeka Anyaoaku, before we started dropping like flies.
Oops... battery running low. I'll keep going till it stops....
Interesting how the press are treating the new pres. Noticeable is how disrespectfully some commentators refer to him - it's "Obama" this, and Obama that, with the occasional "Mr Obama", as if they just can't get their mouths to say "President Obama".