Exit

It was two days following the election of the first African American President of the United States of America. I was in Austin for a meeting with The University of Texas Department of History Visiting Committee. I woke up to check my email and opened a photo attachment…

In total shock and disbelief I could not believe what I saw. I just gazed at the photo, trying to internalize what I was seeing. Yet the longer I stared at the photo, the more unreal it appeared. I felt like I was looking into the pages of a fairytale in a land far, far away…

Despite the fact that I continued to intensely stare at the picture, I could not grasp its reality—no matter how hard I tried. My mind would not and could not accept the fact that what I was seeing was actually true. I stared at the photo incessantly, trying to make myself believe…

What, might you ask, was captivating me so? I was looking at a picture of the first African American First Family of the United States of America encapsulated in a seal. It took me what seems like forever to believe what I was seeing. I finally convinced myself that this moment was real…

Now eight years later on the final day of their service to our country, I feel a sense of both pride and pain. My new reality has finally become real and now I have to let it go! I am now agonizing as I have to read “happily ever after”…

(Don’t you just hate it when a good book comes to an end?!!!)

As I reminisce over the Obama years, I think of all the great memories that they created for my life and the lives of my family members:

  • Being in Washington, DC for an inaugural event in 2009 and feeling the atmosphere of excitement as African Americans anticipated our first African American President. It was a dawn of a new era, like Watch Night of the nineteenth century. Something spectacular was about to happen that would change everything…

    The Latino Ball! Presidential Inauguration 2009 – (left to right) Dr. Rhesa Houston, sister; Rhonda Houston-Crisp, sister; Loretta Houston, mother; me; Terreon Gully, husband

  • Attending the Presidential Inauguration of 2009, which seemed like the coldest yet one of the most magnificent days in American history. In fact, the entire weekend was absolutely fabulous! The events, the Latino Ball, the parade, the Southern ball, my family and I attended everything we could. Most of all, on this trip I learned about faith…
  • Seeing the first African American President during his first year in office speak at the 100th anniversary of the NAACP in New York, New York. Did you hear me??? Could History have written this history any better?
  • Attending the Presidential Inauguration of 2013—the first step in getting over the shock and pain of my brother’s death, which had occurred just two weeks prior. My family, including my brother’s four sons, visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial for the first time, toured other monuments on the National Mall, went to the National Zoo, and of course, participated in all of the inaugural events that we could. All four of my nephews even had the opportunity to attend the Kid’s Inaugural Concert, and all four caught t-shirts thrown into the crowd! (What are the chances of that?) To top it off, the family had a great view of both the Inauguration ceremony and the parade. In fact, we watched the parade, sitting in the stands located right next to the President and his family. Despite the excruciating and difficult context, these were magical and lasting memories for my family indeed…

    Presidential Inauguration 2013 – Terreon, me, and The Boys

  • Taking my grandmother, Izora Jones, on a surprise trip for her 90th birthday to Washington, DC, to attend the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Convention. There she saw her President speak in person for the first time. Absolutely thrilled, my grandmother had finally met with a historical moment that she thought she would never see…
  • Fulfilling my grandmother’s 90th birthday wish to attend the Dedication and Grand Opening of the National Museum on African American History and Culture, the final museum to be built on the National Mall and opening during the final days of office of America’s first African American President. (My grandmother is a founding contributor of the museum, by the way.)  Three generations—my grandmother, mother and I—participated in all of the celebratory festivities and in our spare time we explored the sites and sounds of DC. During the opening weekend, we enjoyed the “Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration” festival, witnessed the opening ceremony featuring the President and multiple dignitaries and celebrities, and visited the highly anticipated museum—which is outstanding, by the way. We did it all, and my grandmother loved every moment!

And, these are just the highlights! There are so many other memories…

More than anything else, the Obamas made me proud. No matter what their critics alleged, the Obamas held up that African American flag!…whether they proclaimed they were doing so or not. Their mere presence screamed blackness and, moreover, represented a black reality that America dares to imagine, let alone acknowledge. And, mind you, that black flag flew high above the fray for all of America and the world to see! The Obamas’ existence and authority in the halls of power and inconceivable residency in the White House boldly and emphatically challenged all stereotypes of who African Americans were supposed to be. On top of that, the Obamas’ commanding and formidable image was in America’s face every day. The Obamas were educated, intelligent, articulate, influential, prominent, distinguished, attractive, composed, beautiful and powerful black people! They exhibited black love, upheld the black family, and represented a dimension of the black community that few recognize but undeniably exists.

Inaugural Parade 2013 – My President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama

What made me even more proud is how the Obamas reacted to and handled adversity and their adversaries. Despite the malicious obstacles, vicious attacks, wicked land mines and darts of hate, the Obamas admirably served our country with dignity and honor. They responded to it all with a calm boldness. Their actions loudly proclaimed as they silently whispered, “I rise!”

Considering all that they faced and the hatred they endured over the past eight years, I have concluded that The Obamas were made for a moment such as this. The Obamas are America’s finest. Who else could have handled the high expectations, arduous challenges and incredible opposition with such humility, style, and grace?

Although I mourn as I write my final blog about the Obamas during their final day in the White House, I also celebrate. I am so happy that I lived in and witnessed this incredible moment in American history when the Obamas graced the White House, the United States and the world with their love, lives and leadership. This African American couple and family—President Barack, First Lady Michelle, and First Daughters Sasha and Malia Obama—have made me, African Americans and so many others proud.

Thank you to The Obama Family. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories, for representing me and my African Americaness so admirably, and for honorably serving our country the United States of America. I will miss you!!!

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