By David Hammond, Associate Editor
My phone rang at 6 a.m. on Inauguration Day. It was Cliff Carle, a Street Sense vendor who also takes photographs, and he told me “It’s unreal. It’s – whatever time it is – and there’s probably 10,000 people around the CCNV shelter, and I got some good shots already. I intend to get out in this. I can’t sit around and wait.”
At Street Sense we never had to ask whether we should cover Barack Obama’s inauguration. Vendors had begun writing about the 2008 presidential race as soon as anyone was in it.
So we knew we’d be able to get some interesting stories and pictures as our hometown hosted this national celebration. But we also saw an opportunity for our writers and photographers to learn how the professionals do it.
We tapped Cliff Carle, because we wanted a seasoned photographer out there and because he lives near the Mall at 2nd and D streets, NW. Reggie Black and Carlton Johnson also stepped forward to try out the Official Media Experience.
I was able to get them credentialed for several official events and also for an NAACP open house that looked interesting. It all turned out to be a pretty good fit, and we were glad to know they were amidst those historic crowds, along with the many other vendors who went out to sell papers that week.
We were thrilled to see this happen, not least because the excitement and satisfaction expressed by our credentialed team was matched by many of their fellow Street Sense vendors during Inauguration Week.
And those feelings reflected the hard-won pride of so many vendors whom I have seen, during my five years with Street Sense, coming to understand that their involvement in spreading the news – whether by selling the paper to eager readers, writing, taking pictures, or being interviewed for a profile or longer article – is a measurable, tangible, undeniable achievement in their lives, and an equally substantial contribution to the public discussions and debates which are meant to be at the heart of American self-government.
Read these reports, view these pictures, and read the words of Street Sense’s vendors and other contributors throughout this and every issue. I think you will agree.
Inauguration Day Experience
By Patricia Jefferson, Vendor
On Inauguration Day, after stepping out of the door of the shelter in which I reside, I was overwhelmed by the tons of people that filled the streets of the small vicinity surrounding the courts and Union Station. The area reminds me of a small town which has most amenities.
Out-of-towners happily gathered in the streets and enjoyed coffee and breakfast before the big event of the day. People from all over the world congregated outside and in stores to purchase their favorite inaugural souvenirs and memorabilia to cherish forever. When I saw that the t-shirts were selling quickly, I decided to purchase one.
Due to the extreme crowds of people, I watched Obama’s speech and the parade on TV along with the other residents in the shelter. The room was quiet. Everyone was glued to the television set to witness the history of the first black President of the United States being sworn in office, the highest seat in the land.
By Cliff Carle, Volunteer
As I looked out my window downtown at 4 a.m. on Inauguration Day, I began to understand the excitement of this new president.
When I was a kid, half a century ago, we had to ride in the back of the bus. But now, everyone will stand up when the 44th president enters the room.
No longer can society even suspect that minorities are just three-fifths of a human. And not since the 13th Amendment that abolished slavery have we blacks been so excited – not even when Edward Brooke from my home state of Massachusetts became the first black senator since Reconstruction in 1967.
I’ve only waited like this for one other icon – 12 hours for Jimi Hendrix on Randall’s Island in New York City back in the early 1970s. Hendrix finally came on stage at 6 a.m. and it was worth the wait.
That was exciting. But seeing this new president take office was even more exciting for me. And history, some years from now, will tell the whole story. So let’s watch history being made.
And “Yes We Can!”
Making Friends in the Crowd
By Kenneth Belkosky, Vendor
The weekend of the Presidential Inauguration was fun. I met a lot of people who were here for the first time, and I even interviewed some people for this paper.
The first person I talked to was a man named Mark who works for a company that provides the Jumbotrons for the Grand Prix, the Kentucky Derby, and as of this weekend the celebration on the National Mall.
Another person was from Lexington, KY and this was their first time here for a swearing in of a President. They heard about it online and will come back if Obama is re-elected.
Next I talked to Maria and Gary, who were from Baltimore. This was also their first time here. They came here for the fun and excitement and will come back again.
I had a great time taking pictures for Street Sense and hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed taking them.
I Was There. I Was There!
By Reggie Black, Vendor
I awoke at 6:30 on the morning of Sunday, January 18 and hurried down to Southeast for a bus pass, headed for the inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial.
It was a day, and a week, like no other, and even getting to the concert was unlike your typical D.C. cross-town trip.
The bus didn’t work out, so I hopped a crowded Metro train at Potomac Avenue. I came out of the Foggy Bottom station at about 7:30 a.m. and witnessed an army of District of Colombia tow trucks removing cars from the street.
I reached the Lincoln Memorial around 8. It was a chaotic scene, but after a lot of sorting out, the wave of press were allowed in. I was among them, representing Street Sense with an official credential from the Presidential Inaugural Committee.
I chose a spot and began to take pictures. Our view was blocked by a column. I almost bumped into another photographer, Polly from the Rockville High School’s Rampage newspaper.
I felt honored to share the press space with someone so close to my own age.
Then the “We Are One” inaugural concert began. I felt the energy, especially when Garth Brooks got the people to sing in unison.
When the president-elect spoke I wondered what will this mean for the significance of upcoming events.
The crowd leaving was intense. I walked to Farragut North and sold a few copies of Street Sense.
As I headed for the nearest shelter I could feel that I had experienced something historic and magical.
But there was more to come. I was also given access to the Mall for the swearing-in ceremony. I woke up Tuesday morning to a surprise – people as well as the press had camped out for the night.
I arrived around 8 on Tuesday morning and was instructed to walk from Eastern Market to the Third Street tunnel, southbound.
But when I saw the huge crowd, I took the northbound tunnel.
I continued with the crowd and as I passed 12th Street the people on the bridge cheered us, as we made our way to join them. They waved and hollered.
A front-row seat for the inauguration
Now I had a front row seat to one of the most historic events in history – the inauguration of the first black president of the United States. The program began with a prayer by the powerful Rev. Rick Warren.
People bowed their heads. Soon the delegates and the former presidents made their way to the Capitol.
If you were anywhere near the Mall when President Bush showed up on the Jumbotron, all you heard was a resounding “boo” and “na na hey hey, goodbye!”
Vice President-elect Joe Biden and the new first family came on the stage. Now everybody was waiting for the president-elect. The crowd was huge, the chanting of “Yes WE Can” and “Obama Obama” rang loudly.
Suddenly there he was on the Jumbotron. The people become excited. Obama stood in an intensely elated ocean of American pride and joy.
They raised their fists, waved their flags and screamed at the top of their lungs (myself included). With much anticipation the crowd hushed to hear the new president take his oath of office. As Mr. Obama said “so help me God,” the crowd cheered louder than ever before.
I was there. I was there!
Can you imagine an ocean of people screaming? It was like the sound of rushing water without the crashing of waves.
President Obama then turned to address America, saying that the road may be long, and that there are needs and that the needs will be met.
Leaving the Mall was as complicated as it had been to get there. But I hopped a shuttle and journeyed to Stadium-Armory.
I soon returned to Southeast and I ended my night with one thought – I was there. I was there!