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Chicagoans gather to watch inauguration ceremony

MasequMyers smiles as President Barack Obamtakes oath office viewing party DuSable Museum Monday Jan. 21 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

Masequa Myers smiles as President Barack Obama takes the oath of office at a viewing party at DuSable Museum Monday, Jan. 21, 2013. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 23, 2013 6:19AM



A standing-room-only crowd at DuSable Museum of African-American History cheered and chanted as they watched the second inauguration of President Barack Obama on a big screen Monday.

They couldn’t make it to Washington, but the hundreds gathered had a good view — as long as the signal held out — as Obama arrived at the podium and kissed his wife and daughters.

About 450 people packed the auditorium at DuSable, with another 200 watching on a second screen set up in a museum gallery. In some cases, three generations of family members attended together.

Kim Ransom of the Washington Park neighborhood came to DuSable with her mother, Deloris Ransom, and 7-year-old daughter, Ella Kazembe.

The president and first lady show “what can happen when we invest in and develop our young people,” said Kim Ransom, who helps public school students gain admission to top colleges through a University of Chicago program.

“We get inspired leadership,” she said.

Many in the crowd stood as Vice President Joe Biden was shown taking the oath of office.

Grumbles replaced cheers as the streaming video from Washington was lost momentarily a few times.

When the signal dropped out again in the middle of James Taylor’s rendition of “America the Beautiful,” the crowd sang the rest of the song. The signal, however, resumed in time for the big moment when Obama took his oath of office, and the DuSable crowd roared and waved tiny U.S. flags.

Echoing the crowd in the National Mall, the Chicago group chanted “Obama” when the president finished his oath and hushed to a silence as he began his speech.

The predominantly African-American group applauded Obama’s comments in support of gay rights and immigration reform, and clapped at what appeared to be a thinly veiled retort at his Republican antagonists.

Like many at DuSable, Diane Mars of the Hyde Park neighborhood said she “just wanted to be with a group to celebrate our president’s second term.”

“I never thought I would see an African-American president in my lifetime, let alone see him re-elected,” said Mars, who is a medical assistant. “This is an awesome, awesome, awesome thing.”

Laura Lane went to DuSable on Monday with her 12-year-old son Christopher and 2-year-old son Wilie. Her 16-year-old daughter Haley was at the inauguration in Washington with the King College Prep choir.

Sitting in a stroller, Wilie could point out the president and the first lady in a family photo, but confused Sasha and Malia.

“He will remember this through pictures,” said Lane, a lawyer for a non-profit in Woodlawn.

Andrea Zopp, the president and CEO of Chicago’s Urban League, said the children at the event “are seeing Dr. King’s dream come to life. They can see the path from 50 years ago, and how things were then, to having a black president. They see we have a strong past and a real future.”

After Obama’s speech, a DuSable official said the repeatedly buffering video signal was a metaphor for black people’s historic struggles.

“Our communities are still suffering. Our children are dying,” said Pemon Rami, director of education and public programs for the museum. He urged the audience to become museum members because, without the 51-year-old museum, “where will we go to celebrate the next time we have a black president?”

Across town, the scene in West Town was far more subdued.

Enoteca Roma restaurant, 2146 W. Division, was hosting an inaugural viewing party, with big-screen TV and “First Hawaiian” cocktails being offered (Prosecco with a splash of pineapple juice).

But as of 11:30 a.m., no one came. Instead, a steady stream of patrons drank coffee and ate breakfast at Letizia’s Natural Bakery, connected to Enoteca Roma by a shared hallway.

Customers said a midterm inaugural just wasn’t as exciting as the first-time around.

They also said the poor economy had dampened their enthusiasm for watching the inauguration.

“From my point of view, it is the lack of change that was promised the first time,” said Jacob Kosiva, a Bucktown resident who works in construction. “We reached such deep bottoms that the change we see now, it’s better than it was, especially in the construction business, but not what it’s supposed to be. We know we’re never going to come back to those good old times.”

His friend and fellow construction worker, Walter Kos, said 2009 was different. “First time, we watch.”

Diane Green, an artist from Pilsen, said she just plain forgot about Monday’s ceremonies. “I guess you could say I’m so happy with our president, that I don’t have to think about something like that. Last year [at the election], I was so overjoyed. This year, I guess I just assumed all is well.”

Patron Bob Buchholz said he was disenchanted with politicians in general. “The government is just a series of puppets,” he said.



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