On Inauguration Day, downtown D.C. looked more like a ghost town – the result of an ongoing health pandemic and numerous threats of domestic terrorism.
It was a far cry from what transpired over a decade ago when legions of Black millennials, among others, celebrated the inauguration of the nation’s first Black president.
Still, the challenges of today failed to deter many young adults, many of whom experienced the Obama presidency as high school or college students, from relishing in another historic moment: the end of the Trump era and the ascent of the nation’s first female vice president – also the first claiming a Jamaican and South Asian ancestry.
“As we watched the swearing-in, I saw a sparkle in my 8-year-old son’s eyes and it made me proud of what the Biden-Harris administration represents,” said Auntea Marie, a local marketing professional who watched the festivities from the confines of her home.
“They represent change, democracy, hope, and unity. I’m looking forward to seeing more barriers being broken and more doors of opportunity being opened,” she said.
In his inaugural address, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. alluded to the breach of the U.S. Capitol earlier this month before declaring that democracy had prevailed and the will of the people had been fulfilled.
Moments earlier, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor issued the oath of office to Vice President Kamala Harris, who now becomes the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history.
Much of the inauguration took place before an empty National Mall as socially distanced congressional members, former presidents and former Vice President Mike Pence watched.
Even so, messages conveyed by the newly-installed president and vice president rang clear for some Black millennials like Paul Waters.
“Almost immediately after the election, President Biden and Vice President Harris called racial justice one of their priorities, and seeing them mention it twice was a good signal that we have an administration deeply committed to this work in the United States,” said Waters, a D.C. resident of nearly 14 years who works in tech policy.
“Hopefully, they can get started immediately,” he added. “We saw tremendous efforts with Stacey Abrams and other organizers to make sure folks had the right to vote and there have been broad plans for federal legislation around the same thing.”
While she, too, took pleasure in the changing of the guard, Southeast-based photographer Dee Dwyer mulled over whether Trump supporters would end their assaults on the District and other parts of the country. She also expressed a desire to see Blacks receive some return on their investment for securing victory for Biden and Harris.
“I hope President Biden sticks to what he said he was going to do [and] looks out for the Black community; we got him into office,” Dwyer said. “I also hope, for once, that we have a president who tries to create some type of change and provide resources for under-resourced communities in their backyard of Wards 7 and 8. And I hope that Vice President Harris is going to be proactive in her role where we get to hear her speak her thoughts.”