After the most contentious presidential election in history, Joseph Robinette Biden was inaugurated as the 46th president of the United States. Kamala Devi Harris was sworn in as the first female of African descent to become vice president.

And despite a distant view obstructed by tall fences, Army troops and watching most events from their homes many people, African American and white, are expressing hope that better days lie ahead for America in 2021.

“We lead with hope as people who call ourselves Christians,” said Rev. Thomas Bowen, director of the Office for Religious Affairs for Mayor Muriel Bowser. “Eleanor Holmes Norton, our wonderful congresswoman, says anything is possible if we just have hope. This is a time for a fresh start.”

Bowen’s comments came as he and other volunteers prepared bags of food and snacks for the needy on Jan. 20 in the parking lot of Shiloh Baptist Church on Ninth Street NW. Church workers partnered with the Biden-Harris Inaugural committee during a day of service on the Martin Luther King federal holiday.

Working at one table were four young women, three African Americans and one white, who looked like the living words of Dr. Martin Luther King when he said, “I have a dream that one day little black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.”

Rev. Georgia Mensah, executive minister of Shiloh, brought his three daughters, Alexis, Alexandra and Rachel, to the event and they met a white friend who learned about the event at the inauguration website.

“I don’t like all of the hatred that is spread around,” said Rachel Mensah, 24. “I am hoping with the new administration he can do what is right for the young adult community as well, and I am hoping that everyone can live happily; I feel that people should stop stereotyping us and racial profiling us.”

“I just hope people will not be against each other and going back and forth on the line,” said Alexandra Mensah. “It was never like that before. I feel like people of different races; we need to be on the same page.”

Katie Kenny, who is white, has lived in D.C. for eight years. She said, “Just like Alexandra said, we are all one community, and this community welcomed me in today.”

Alexis Mensah, 17, said, “Race is so big, having a world divided but how can the color of your skin affect how people think about you? Why not come out here,? You can only feel positive. 2020 was a very bad year. You can only put positive things in the world and give back.’

Veronica Mathewson, a local elementary school teacher, has been a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority for more than 30 years. She said seeing her soror sworn in as vice president is more than impressive.

“It a wonderful sense of pride not only to have an African American woman but a woman to have a woman who has the morals, the values and the fortitude of Alpha Kappa Alpha,” she said.

Erma Williams, 55, a white woman who grew up in Rockville, Md., and now lives in Roanoke, Va., said she wanted to participate in a forum hosted on Facebook Live about the inauguration in the wake of the insurrection.

“One of my hopes for all age groups is pursuing what is truly real and have it revealed,” Williams, who voted for Trump, said. “The hymn that keeps coming to mind this afternoon and evening is, ‘My Hope is Built on Nothing Less.’”

Leslie Mars, 59, a Metro mechanic from Fort Washington, Md., lost his sister and uncle to COVID-19. He noted that President Biden and Vice President Harris came to Washington, D.C., before the inauguration for a memorial service for all COVID-19 victims.

“My sister Cheryl Mars and my uncle William Mars are on the list” of the dead. “Going forward, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris can show the humanity that leaders need to demonstrate for people to trust them. President Trump did not deal with reality.”

Tom Leibrand, a white federal worker, grilled food at his Upper Marlboro home and gave it to others over the weekend. Even though he didn’t vote for President Biden, he said all are deserving of support. “When you look at Jesus and all of the varying opinions among the apostles, as a believer, I am going to love as he did. No matter who you voted for, where you come from, I am going to do the best I can because of what Jesus has done for me.”

Shiloh Deacon Chuck Hall, working with the other volunteers in the parking lot, said, “We are not going to turn Joe Biden into some messiah, but at the same time, there is promise in the future when you have a sincere person at the head.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the...

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