Reported by Angela Vasquez- Giroux, Neal McNamara and Kyle Melinn and written by McNamara
If the inauguration of Barack Obama gave elicited shivers, then Tuesday’s postinauguration festivities elicited cheers.
“I feel better than James Brown, man,” said an elated Bob Pena of the inauguration at a Tuesday night bash at the Gone Wired Cafe along Michigan Avenue on Lansing east side. “I have a lot of hope; not just for Barack, but for the whole country.”
“We were here election night,” said Denise Lynch, who was standing with Pena. “So we thought it would be fitting to come back. I also think it’s fitting Barack was a community organizer, and this event supports the Greater Lansing Food Bank.”
Gone Wired was filled to the brim — upstairs and down — with young and old celebrating with snacks, a few beers and conversation.
Ruth Edwards, Lois Dean and Jane Crowner were sitting at a round, candlelit table discussing the day’s events.
“We were just talking about how we’re all one country now, and people are coming together instead of having all this political backfighting,” Edwards said.
Edwards explained that her husband, who is black, grew up in the segregated South.
“My husband says, ‘I just wish my parents could see this,’” Edwards said.
“For the first time in a long time we have a person in charge who can draw the nation together,” Crowner said.
“Finally there’s hope for our kids and grandchildren,” Dean said. “I was full of despair these last eight years, and now that’s changed.”
In the upstairs section of Gone Wired, Ernest and Doris Siegmann were sitting quietly looking at the crowd below them as the Michigan State University Student Jazz Band played in the background.
Siegmann was clutching her and her husband’s now-empty cups and plates — she said that, in order to start making change, she was going to recycle more, starting with those cups and plates.
Obama “brings back the optimism we felt in the 1960s,” she said. “Just that is quite an accomplishment.”
“When I think about the fact that in 1964 I was in a civil rights march in Nashville, Tenn.,” Ernest Siegmann said, “where we are today is pretty amazing.”
Over on the north side of Lansing at Gregorys Ice and Smoke night club along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, an inauguration party for its patrons was raging, complete with hors d’oeuvres and large-screen televisions tuned to CNN post-inauguration coverage.
Nearly every patron mentioned the same set of themes to describe what Obamas election, and swearing-in, meant to them: hope, and change.
At the affair was a group of women calling themselves — with a good laugh — the "Divas." At least thats the way Diva member Sherry Forrest introduced the group when asked why they are all at Gregorys on inauguration night.
"I wanted to join with my fellow Divas in celebrating the 44th president of the United States," Forrest said, making sure her squad’s name is written with a capital “D.”
The Divas filled up a round table, and were basking in the glow of victory — and theyd earned it. One woman, Delores Scott, said shed never in her life gone door to door or gotten involved in a campaign but for Obama, she was registering voters across Lansing. That, she said, is what Obama inspired in her.
Another Diva, Tracey Taylor, has been an Obama-believer since she heard his table-setting speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004.
"I was sold from the moment I heard him," she said.
Carol Harton, LaDonna Hill and Marie Plant nodded and made sure that it appeared on the record that hope and change inspire them. They are looking to Obama to change the way the world views the United States, bridge the gaps between rich and poor and continue involving youth as he did in his campaign.
Danny McDaniel, who works at Gregorys, said he was there to see history in the making.
McDaniel said that Gregory’s owner, Gregory Eaton, was involved in getting the Obama word out from day one, holding Obama barbeques and registering voters. Obamas election means a "stronger, rebuilt economy," he said.
A patron, John Lewis Jr., said he had been celebrating all day. "Watching, hoping and praying that the people of this country get behind Obama to enact his vision for the country."
Lewis added that he sees Obama as an extension of Martin Luther King, Jr.
He knows theres a lot to be done, but "like (Obama) said, we can do it,” Lewis said.
(Lewis later pulled a reporter aside for a few minutes later to add: "This (Obamas election) was God-ordained.")
Bartender Courtney McIntosh was wearing a black and silver Obama shirt as she poured drinks behind the bar.
McIntosh started the day watching the ceremony with one of her sons and her mother, drinking apple juice and munching on pancakes and bacon.
"It was a good way to start the morning," she said. The inauguration, she said, is something shell always remember. "It gives me hope for my two boys. Maybe, one day, they can be president."
And once more, Obama’s message of hope and chasing one’s dreams carried through to the Obama Inaugural Gala at the Lansing Center hosted by the Mid-Michigan Medical Society.
The black tie-optional event put a classy punctuation mark on the historic day, emphasizing the association’s goal of raising $400,000 for diversity scholarships within Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine and the College of Human Medicine.
The society‘s president, Dr. Kenya Sekoni, said she hopes to raise enough funds to buy all of the medical books for a growing number of scholarship recipients. To the night’s attendees she shared her vision of “reaching back to students, reaching out to her colleagues and reaching forward to generations to come.”
“Truly, we are living the dream of Martin Luther King, where people are not judged by the color of their skin but by the integrity they have within,” Sekoni said.
Several hundred gathered for the formal evening of music, drinks, dancing and food.
The evening featured another short speech from local author Lynda Miller- Perdue, whose message was not necessarily “Yes we can” or “Yes, we did” but “Finally!”
Student Micala Barker, daughter of Society Vice President Alane Laws- Barker, shared a story her grandmother told her of her uncle, who as a boy asked if he could be anything he wanted to be when he was older.
Barker’s grandmother told him at the time that he could. The grandmother’s friend, who was nearby, chastised her, saying she should know that there were limitations on what a black man could accomplish in this country. For example, he could never become president.
“And now we have an African- American president,” Barker said. “We proved her dead wrong.”