I sat watching the inauguration ceremonies this morning thinking of Medger Evers as his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, gave the Invocation. Wondering if fifty years ago this June, as she watched her husband fight and die for the right to equal rights for all people, she could ever imagine that she would become the first woman to take this part in the ceremony. I wonder if brings any small peace to her heart. It did to mine.
I sat watching the inauguration ceremonies this morning and I thought of my mother’s parents. My grandmother passed away before Obama’s career began. My grandfather so happy to see him elected the first time, and would’ve been thrilled again today, but he missed it by just a few months.
From the time I was little, I loved looking at the photos of JFK’s inaugural and the gala the evening before, directed by my grandfather. I loved the stories about the terrible snow storm and how they had to work around the madness of it all. The show must go on. And yet, this show never aired because of sound and lighting difficulties. The space was so large and lighting for TV was an art yet to be mastered. It exists, but was never broadcast. It was a lineup so large it brought the biggest names from Hollywood to Broadway to DC.
I found some old photos from the JFK gala online. Photos by the great Phil Stern. And as I looked through the contact sheets, spying some old familiar images and some old familiar faces, I did a double take. It was grandmother. In a few shots I’d never seen before. She didn’t look directly into the camera, but ever so slightly to the side. She was smiling, perhaps laughing a little. The look I’d imagine would have been on her face today had she lived to see this day.