Caribbean: Obama's Day

Like the rest of the world, the eyes of the Caribbean were on Washington, DC yesterday, as Barack Hussein Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Regional and diaspora bloggers – for the most part – could not contain their enthusiasm over this history-making moment.

Geoffrey Philp, a Jamaican living in Florida, talked about the anticipation he experienced:

It was the moment for which we had all been waiting, yet here seemed to be a lingering apprehension…could this really be happening? The time had come: The swearing in of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America. It was as if we were all collectively holding our breath.

So inspired was Geoffrey by the event, that he soon penned a post-inauguration poem:

All the lies have been laid to rest
The insults from childhood that would trigger
Bile in your stomach, rage that would linger

In your knuckles, creep up into your chest,
And made you think you couldn't hold on any longer…
All the lies have been laid to rest

Fellow Jamaican Stunner agreed that “a page of history was written today, history that the whole world stopped to watch”, but was all too aware of the fact that the new President has his work cut out for him:

Many in the world, including the Caribbean and Jamaica are looking on in anticipation and hope that with this new administration, things will get better economically and where international relations are concerned. But despite his admirable and eloquent speeches, his extremely great feat of becoming president, we are still in a world ravaged by a global economic recession, wars, poverty and disease. Therefore, he has a humongous challenge ahead of him to make a change for the better and only time will tell how much he and his administration can do to improve the US and by extension the global community.

Stunner's compatriot, Active Voice, recalled the moment she knew that Barack Obama was going to win the election, and wondered “if the Americans didn't fully realize how extraordinarily different it is this time”:

For instance American might and power has never made me take an interest in their political system before. Yet once Obama showed that he was a force to contend with I started to be interested; how far would this unusual candidate get? What would his tactics be? How long would the American political system tolerate this challenge from a political nonentity? I'm sure there were millions like me all over the world. And trust me Barack hasn't let any of us down. And for a change neither has the United States, which has proved that its much vaunted democratic system of governance actually can and does work fairly. The Americans should be congratulated for that.

Emotions ran high. Raw Politics…Jamaica Style! admitted that a few tears flowed; the moment brought to mind the struggles of Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela:

In that moment, Barack Obama and President Mandela became one. Across the boundaries of geography and even time…their dreams seemed united; twinned in the universal demand for human rights and dignity. In it, I saw the visions of the slaves and the promise and power of their rebellions; their insistent cries of admission not just to the community of nations but also the dignity of the human family. Dr. King’s dreams were being realized and my insistent prayers had not gone unanswered.

Abeng New Magazine posted a series of entries about the inauguration, while writer/blogger Pamela Mordecai celebrated the greatness of the day:

A great day, this, to be back online, and a new day, hopefully, for American politics. I'm wishing that the Force be with Barack Obama, 44th President of the USA, whose inauguration day it is. He's going to need a seriously Superior Force in the days ahead, not a fighting force, but a moral force – a committed, courageous, bold and decent force of men and women of good will.

Blogger/cartoonist The Devil Island could barely contain himself:

I teared up at some points, I cheered at some points, I applauded at some points.
I couldn’t be happier.

He was even moved to post a drawing of the new President. Meanwhile, fellow Bermudian Breezeblog was impressed by how “even as he [Obama] was giving his inauguration speech, he was already making good on his promise to keep the online connection that won him so much support in the campaign”; Vexed Bermoothes thought that the new President's inauguration speech was “superb”.

With the exception of Living in Barbados, who could hardly find the words to express how he was feeling, it was mostly female bloggers who made the effort to communicate their thoughts. Gallimaufry posted a close-up shot of Michelle Obama holding the Lincoln Bible as her husband's left hand rested on top of it, causing one of her readers to gush:

I didn’t realise she was the one holding the bible. This shot totally makes me tear up. Again.

Cheese-on-Bread! admitted that the moment was an emotional one and wished that her grandparents were alive “to witness what they would deem unimaginable.” All that emotion, however, did not eradicate her keen fashion sense – in another post, Cheese made sure to mention that the era of Michelle O had begun.

Cuban bloggers were also quite vocal about the day's events. El Cafe Cubano noted that “today will mark history in that America will have its first black president and it does not matter on what political spectrum you are on, it's historical.” But he continued:

Time will tell how history will judge the Obama regime…

Uncommon Sense was optimistic that the new President “recognizes the enemy in Cuba”:

The thought of Obama being in charge of American policy on Cuba scares the hell out of many Cuban Americans…but if you take Obama at his word – and today of all days, we should take him at his word – you shouldn't fear that when it comes to Cuba, Obama is about to sell the store. Just because he plans to take the sensible, humanitarian step of loosening limits on travel and remittances to the island by Cuban Americans, does not mean is betraying American values or the Cuban people.

Sunrise in Havana loved Obama's inauguration speech and hoped that one day he could hear similar words from a democratically elected Cuban President, while Generation Y did not mince words when she said that she prefers “the buzzing of a fly over listening to the promises of a politician” – which is why she was “so confused with the serene statement delivered…by Barack Obama, with his manner of carefully constructed arguments and invocations to harmony”:

It seemed to me when reading it—I don’t have an illegal satellite dish to watch it on TV—that he condemned all the rhetoric to be left in the twentieth century. We have started to say goodbye to that convulsed eloquence which no longer moves us. I only hope that it will be, ‘We, the People’ who will write the speeches from now on.

Puerto Rico
As a self-governing territory of the United States, Puerto Rico had a vested interest in this special day – and for The Voice of the Taino People Online, that “ambiguous political relationship with the U.S.” is one of the first things the new President should turn his attention to. But for the moment, Gil the Jenius was content to rekindle that sense of pride in country:

As I write this, President Obama is now Our President. And for the first time since the darkening days of of September, 2001, when a vile attack by foreigners became a series of vile attacks by those who swore–falsely–to protect Us, I feel that the pride of nation that tinged My childhood, the pride in a nation that could overcome its own tragedies and place a man on the moon, that pride is… back.

The Bahamas
“The world has changed,” wrote Nicolette Bethel, in a well-researched blog post that explained just how that change has become a reality:

That the 44th President of the USA is African-American is important, revolutionary, seminal, historic. Yes. But that he is also the first president born after 1960 — the date accepted as the end of imperialism — after the change that began to change the world, after empires died and the formerly oppressed — we must not forget — were able once more to forge their own destinies for better or for worse, is equally significant. That he is the first president whose administration really appears to understand the change that has come in the world is something that is liable to change the world perhaps as profoundly as the skin he wears will do.

It’s possible to argue, and I’m going to, that the election of Barack Obama as an African-American marks the end of a change that began with Gandhi, continued through the struggle for self-determination and national independence throughout the European empires between 1919 and 1960, and came home to the English-language Americas with Martin Luther King. But what Obama’s election also signifies is the beginning of another change — a change in society that has to do with changes in technology. The old ideas that were forced upon us by governments whose philosophies were the residue of 19th century industrialism are passing away, and a new world is beginning.

Her compatriot, Rick Lowe, blogging at Weblog Bahamas, preferred to delay judgment, but Womanish Words was happy to get caught up in the excitement of “a brother running the free world”:

I am thrilled to have witnessed his address, grateful for the blessed optimism his achievement is inspiring in us all. I will always remember that my baby daughter was at my breast when he took the oath and the new era began.

The rest of the region
Trinidad diaspora blogger Karen Walrond, who hosted a Blogger Inauguration party, actually liveblogged the event with some friends:

10:49 a.m.: Watching the beginning of the inauguration. Feeling a bit shaky with anticipation.

10:54 a.m.: Aretha Franklin singing “My Country 'tis of Thee.” Aaaaaand I'm already teary.

11:08 a.m.: We all just stood as Obama took oath. And then cheered. Unreal. It's real. Unreal.

11:21 a.m.: Watching Obama's speech (with a CBS cameraman watching us)…

And within seconds of Obama taking oath, the new White House home page.

Dominica Weekly could not help but draw parallels with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, while jmc strategies decided to blog about “what should Haitian leaders take away from his words? Two things: a warning and a promise”:

The Warning:
[President Obama]: To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

The story of Haitian leadership since virtually the country’s inception has been one of wanton destruction rather than nation-building. Haitian leaders have treasured personal gains over the collective welfare, resorted to plundering state coffers rather than enforcing tax collections and managing revenues in ways that benefit the collective good. While Haiti proclaimed its love of freedom, equality and brotherhood it stopped short of calling for the pursuit of happiness, and implemented neither freedom, equality or brotherhood.

The Promise:
[President Obama]: To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

President Obama appears to not back away from a strong and pro-active foreign policy that intelligently uses US assistance to lift up the poor.

That, in effect, summarizes the Caribbean region's response to the new U.S. President's inauguration – there may be challenging times ahead, but with fortitude and hope comes the promise of a better day.


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