With her mother and daughters in tow, Kalyn James contemplated the arc of history Monday.
Her mother, Evelyn Chapman, grew up in segregated Mobile, Ala. in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1993, James became the first African American to win the Miss Alabama competition.
And on Monday, she, her mother and her daughters Phoenix, 10, and Zen, 6, joined more than 1,000 others at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts to watch the second inauguration of the nation’s first black president on a day marking the birth of civil rights pioneer Martin Luther King Jr.
“It’s a chance to reflect on what was and how far we’ve come,” said James, corporate sponsorship coordinator for the Arsht Center.
Plus, added Zen: “We have to support the president.”
Judging from the enthusiasm of the crowd — and their cheers whenever President Barack Obama appeared on a giant screen in the Knight Concert Hall — they were of the same mind. But some of the 1,200 attendees, split between the concert hall and the Ziff Ballet Opera House, had a closer connection to the events in Washington, D.C.
Before the event, Latin Builders Association President and Coral Gables resident Bernie Navarro said he was both “ecstatic” and “nervous” for his cousin, inaugural poet Richard Blanco. Raised in Miami and educated at Florida International University, Blanco is the first Hispanic and first openly gay person to serve as inaugural poet. He is also the youngest.
After the ceremony, Navarro called the poem, titled One Today, “a message of reflection, hope, unity.”
“We were thrilled about it,” he said. “He hit on all points that needed to be hit on for the country.”
John Bailly, an artist who has collaborated with Blanco and who is a longtime friend of the poet, said he calls Blanco his voice in their work together.
“Today, he was the voice of America,” said Bailly, a faculty fellow at FIU’s Honors College.
Bailly said the day was already historic for so many reasons, but the inclusion of Blanco in the ceremony added a new level for South Floridians.
“To see Richard, who represents the diversity of Miami, to be endorsed by President Obama, it makes this day even more historically significant,” he said.
During the last inauguration, Coconut Creek resident Patricia Webb told herself she would attend Obama’s second swearing-in ceremony in person if he were reelected. But after losing her job as a human resources director and having a baby last year, a trip to Washington, D.C., was out of the question.
So Webb, her best friend and 7-month-old Myles — who joined his mother while she canvassed on behalf of Obama during the 2012 campaign — opted for the communal experience at the Arsht Center. The amenities, it turned out, were appropriate to her mood.
For Obama’s speech, she bought two glasses of champagne and a cheese platter in the center’s lobby.
Said Webb: “I thought we should celebrate.”