As a black educated immigrant woman from Africa, I have been boxed me into a certain category of people in America. I’m supposed to think and act a certain way to fit in the box that people want to place me. However, as an Independent, I have a mind of my own and I can’t be boxed. Many people were surprised that I chose to attend and volunteer at the 58th Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. I don’t belong to any political party and therefore I didn’t attend and volunteer for the Inauguration because I agree with everything Mr. Trump has said during his campaign. I disagree with him on quite a number of issues. However, I volunteered because of the love that I have for this country. Naturally, I tend to gravitate towards messages of hope, passion, patriotism, love and sacrifice for country. This may seem contradictory; after all, I’m a naturalized USA citizen living in the USA instead of another country that’s supposed to be my only home. But you see, I can’t be boxed into having just one home either because my story is different….. I had no place to really call home until I became a USA citizen.
I’m an exile child who was born in a refugee camp in Angola, by Namibian freedom fighters who were fighting to liberate their country from the apartheid regime in Namibia and South Africa. I lived in Angola until the apartheid war ended and went to Namibia for the first time with my parents. I lived in Namibia for one year and half before my family moved to London, England where I lived for five years. After living in London, my family moved to Washington, DC, USA where I lived with them until they left. I asked my dad to let me stay back at the age of 19, although I didn’t have any immediate family members in the USA. I didn’t have to work too hard to convince him. He asked me a few questions about how I plan to survive here all by myself. I gave him my game plan and due to the discipline and respectful way he raised me, he had enough faith in my ability to survive and stand strong in America, no matter what life throws at me. He gave me his blessings. I have now been living in this country for twenty years… So you tell me, where’s home….?
Home is where the heart is. My heart is in America; my country of trials, tribulations and growth. This is not to say that I have forgotten my country of birth Angola or my country of descent Namibia. I love those countries dearly as well and I’m patriotic to them in their own right. I represent them as the unofficial Ambassador wherever I go. But still, my truth remains…. I remember saying a small prayer while in London, asking God to send me to America one day…. I believe America is the country that God lead me to from the war refugee camps of Angola. This is the country where He sustained me against all odds. And therefore, I have grown to love this country; we have a history together, we took care of each other. I couldn’t choose where I was born or where my parents were from, but I could choose a place to finally call home. It’s the love for my new found home that lead me to attend and volunteer on Inauguration Day. This was also the first time I attended Inauguration in America. It was an experience of a life time, especially seeing patriotism and love for country on display by citizens and politicians who don’t necessarily see eye to eye on issues, but they squashed their political differences that day to show their patriotism and love for country.
Let me back up for a minute… I have mentioned patriotism a lot in this blog but I’m not sure if it’s clear to everyone what I mean by American Patriotism. American Patriotism could mean different things to different people but at the core of everyone’s definition of the term is the love for country and its people, first and foremost. And this is the patriotism I’m referring to where American interests and the well-being of her citizens comes first, before any other country or any other person who’s not an American. As an immigrant from another country, I have always understood this and respected that Americans should be first in their own country. There’s no reason why there should be starving children in America without their basic needs being met, while the finances that could be used to help them is being redirected elsewhere. It’s the obligation of every country in the world to take care of its own citizens and if the leadership of that country fails to do that, it’s up to the citizens to rise up and hold their government accountable. It’s the only way to empower the people and ease the burden placed on other nations to chip in when they have their own homeland issues to deal with. I’m not saying countries shouldn’t help each other. They should, but not at the expense of their limited resources, creating another problem in their own backyard. No matter the political climate inside a country, if more governments were seriously held accountable by their empowered, non-complacent citizens, I believe each country will be better off and this world would be a much better place. Power belongs to the people, not governments.
There’s a second part of American patriotism which is a bit complicated because it involves values that could mean different things to different people based on their interpretation of the constitution and what the founders really meant when they wrote it. So I will not dwell on that. I’m talking about the core of American patriotism that unites us all based solely on love for our country and well-being of fellow Americans as a whole, on a national level. This patriotism is rooted in devoted love, sacrifice that transcends political ideology and personal values, where one is willing to defend the pride of their country at all cost and display true loyalty, no matter how disappointed they might be in the political climate of the country. They put personal feelings aside and rise up to serve their country so that she can be a shining example to the world and a beacon of hope. This is the patriotism that our men in uniform display on a daily basis, despite their political affiliation because they want to see the country move forward, succeed and continue to stand strong. That’s why I respect men in uniform; they embody true American patriotism. This is the type of loyalty that I believe every American citizen should uphold. I’m glad that on his first day in office on Friday January 20th, President Trump signed a bill declaring a National Day of Patriotism. It’s not clear yet when that day will be held but I look forward to celebrating American Patriotism on its National Day.
On Wednesday January 18th, 2017, feeling empowered as a patriotic citizen of this great country, I went for my training as a 58th Inauguration Committee Volunteer at the Washington, DC Convention Center. The well attended training covered our duties and what to expect at the Inauguration events. Out of 8000 volunteers who responded to the call, I was one of the 3000 who were approved to join the Inauguration Committee, after successfully passing a secret service background check. The three day Inaugural activities include Day One Thursday’s Pre-Inauguration: Make America Great Again Welcome Concert, Day two Friday’s Inauguration Swear-In and Parade, Day three more Inauguration Balls and clearing out.
I attended the Thursday concert which was very well attended and a strong show of American Patriotism like I have never see or experienced before. Songs like Proud to be an American, God bless America, gave me goose bumps as they were sang with so much passion, pride and gusto. Click on video below to hear the American patriotic songs and see the amazing fireworks:
My friends on Facebook warned me against attending Inauguration Day as I would be one of the very few black people there and that I should fear for my life. I’m not easily intimidated so I refused to live in fear. I believe that FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real and it’s just a mental and emotional game that we can easily overcome if we don’t let it fester in our minds and hearts for long. So, I left my house without incident at 3:50am on Friday morning to catch the first 4am metro-train to downtown Washington, DC. My first stop was the GSA Federal government building to pick up my volunteer credentials and assignment. I also had breakfast that was provided for all volunteers, free of charge. I was assigned to work the Friday Inauguration Day event with a security pass that got me through all the major security check points, except inside the capitol building, but I was very close enough. This was my first time volunteering for such an event so I totally understood the tight security in place and why I was confined up to that point. I was grateful for the opportunity to serve America, Americans, and the new Administration and at the same witness the beautiful event. I was stationed right by the Capitol building where the swearing in was taking place. I greeted and assisted guests in every way possible, and ensured that they had a memorable experience. I was also an extra eye in case of any emergency situation that needed the police involvement. The people that I met that day were all wonderful and friendly. Many thanked me for volunteering. I believe they appreciated seeing me there because I was one of the very few people of color who volunteered and attended the event. Everyone appreciates diversity; we can’t encourage diversity by choosing to stay away due to our differences. I was happy to represent my people, those who didn’t support Donald Trump and those who did. At the core of every human being, there’s a good heart and a common goal. Watch the video below:
After the swear-in ceremony, I went to our volunteer headquarter in the GSA building where lunch was provided for us. I then went to help out at the Inauguration parade. It was a wonderful parade with a true display of American patriotism. It was also great to witness the parade performance by Talladega marching band from an African-American college who received a backlash for agreeing to perform at this inauguration. They did a great job and represented their college and community very well, despite the criticism that they got for willing to do participate. Although some of them didn’t support or agree with some of the things that Mr. Trump said in the past, in a show of true patriotism and service to country, they refused to bow down to peer pressure and bullying tactics. This touched the hearts of many of Trump supporters who donated more than $600,000, way above the $75,000 that the band needed to make the trip to Washington, DC to take part in the parade. The band got the loudest chair from the crowd, after President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
When I was leaving to go home from the parade at around 630pm, after volunteering that day for more than 12 hours, an on duty African-American police officer on a motorcycle greeted me and I greeted him back. He asked me where I was coming from. He looked shocked and disappointed to learn that I attended the inauguration. He asked “you’re coming from where? You went to that?” I said “yes.”…. He looked away in disbelief, and then he turned to look at me again. He asked why I would do such a thing as a person of color, a woman (and I’m sure the immigrant part crossed his mind too based on my accent). I was a bit surprised that a police office on inauguration duty wants to discuss politics with me. I decided to engage him and answered all his questions calmly, even though he got a bit heated when he cited race issues and Donald Trump. Our debate was very civil and he acknowledged the fact that I helped to keep him calm during our debate because usually discussions like this had become heated and uncivil. In his last days, President Obama did encourage us to engage one another and not shut out people who have different views from us. We were interrupted on three occasions by parade attendees who were asking the officer for directions home. The first interruption made the police upset although he did politely help them. It was two white ladies who cut him off in the middle of his sentence and said “excuse me, can you please tell us how to get to…” Soon after that, the police officer used that to validate a point he was making earlier about Trump white supporters and their apparent rudeness, arrogance and disregard for black people. Personally I didn’t see anything wrong because they politely said “Excuse me…” their question was a short and they could tell he was on duty and that I was not talking to him because I had a life threatening issue that couldn’t wait….
On the second occasion, we were interrupted by two Asians except they didn’t directly interrupt our discussion like the other previous ladies. The Asians stood there patiently looking at the officer and waited for him to address them and he did when he finished his sentence. An African-American guy did the same thing as the Asians; stood close by looking at the officer and waited to be addressed without saying a word. I took note of that and brought back the point the police officer was making initially when the white two ladies interrupted us by saying “Excuse me…” and that I still didn’t think they were intentionally being rude and disrespectful, and that it was probably just an upbringing and cultural difference between these three races. He smiled, not sure if he agreed or he just respected my ability to see the good in people and give everyone the benefit of a doubt….. Our civil debate lasted for what felt like an hour. He appreciated the debate and I did too. We both realized that despite our different views on the new Administration, we both loved this country and it helps to have an open mind.
I pointed out to him that our encounter may have been divine and not an accident. He agreed and proceeded to ask me for my number. I chuckled and kindly said I don’t think that’s the divine reason. He smiled. I then told him that I believe we needed to have this discussion as a sign of a new beginning politically. I asked him if he could release President Trump from the abhorrent that he has of him because hate for another person is too much a burden to bear. Who wants to carry that a heavy heart around? What good purpose will it serve? He nodded in agreement. I asked him if he could forgive Donald Trump and start fresh on this first day of his Administration…. He smiled and said he would…. He then said that he thinks I’m a very beautiful woman. I thanked for him for his kind words and service to our nation.
On my way to catch the metro, my spirit told me to tell every officer I pass “Thank you” and I did just that when I got inside the train station and there were quite a number of them making sure that we got home safely. I went up to them, shook their hands and told them “Thank you for all that you do for us.” I could tell that they appreciated hearing that, especially after a long day like this of so many people and hundreds of protesters who vandalized the city in protest of President Donald J. Trump. Personally I didn’t see any violent protesters that day because the protesters were stationed far from the inauguration site due to super tight security. I got home safely without incident. It was a beautiful and amazing day. I will cherish my experience at this inauguration and if I have to do it again, I would, for any government Administration because I’m Independent and I see past political party lines. I weigh both sides of the story first, with an open mind, before forming my own conclusions.
One more thing I should point out. Before I became a USA Citizen, I was always amazed at the love that Americans had for their country. This is the only country in the world where I saw many people proudly waving and flying the USA flag while inside the country, without there being a special national event. I have not seen that anywhere else in the parts of the world where I have been. In Namibia, for example, the only time you see citizens proudly waving and flying a Namibian flag is at official government and national events such as Independence Day or international sports competitions. Otherwise the only flag you see being passionately displayed by the citizens inside the country is their political party flags such as SWAPO and DTA flags….. This is not to say that these citizens love their country any less. You would never see the citizens of those countries burning their country flags to show disappointment like you see Americans doing. I’m sure most citizens of the world see this and frown upon it because it’s quite embarrassing and hurtful to see considering the fact that the flag represents the country that you claim to love. You don’t burn down and destroy what you love, no matter the circumstances because love covers a multitude of sins. May those without sin cast the first stone at President Donald J. Trump, who has certainly said hurtful things to some people. Or would you forgive him, for the love of country and give him a chance to make our country great again or greater (if you believe it’s already great)? Not to excuse anything that Mr. Trump may have said to hurt your feelings, but I hope you release him from the hurt and pain that he caused you. Doesn’t everyone deserve a second chance…?
I believe it’s in our best interest as American citizens to unite as one people, with a common goal to see this country at its peak. We all benefit when the country is doing extremely well and the basic needs of every citizen are met. For the love of this country, I will be praying for the new Administration and I hope you will too. If President Trump fails, we all fail. When he succeeds, we all succeed.…..