Saturday, January 17, 2009

Barack Obama's Inauguration and Baracku: Be in This Moment

Quick Start Directions: Click here, tinyurl.com/baracku.

For background, please read below. For concept, click here..

In early December, I wrote another blogger, an English professor, and asked her what did she think of my starting a Twitter page solely for writing verse in honor of President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration. She said, "Go for it." And so, I claimed the Ning group name Barcku and then I claimed the Twitter page, twitter.com/baracku. I contacted a few poets I knew and asked would they participate. The responses were positive. I started figuring out the best ways to promote it also. Busy, busy, busy ... for a while. And then I dropped it.

Why did I drop it? Instead of picking the idea up and returning to busyness, I've been pondering why I dropped dreams for Baracku. I support Barack Obama. I'm a published poet. I know other poets.

I also wondered why in my own blog, WSATA, one at which I've posted frequently about Obama's run, Obama's victory, Obama's family--Michelle, Malia, and Sasha, even Grandma Marian and indulged my own Obamamania -- that I'd sort of slacked off on writing more about Obama's inauguration and transition.

A voice kept coming back to me, that of my 78-year-old aunt, my mother's sister. I had been to her house the week after my mother's funeral in November because a woman who had been both a friend to my mother (who died at age 81) and my aunt had dropped off a complete dinner at my aunt's house on the previous Sunday, the day after the funeral. My aunt promptly put most of it in the freezer and called me to invite me, my children, and father to come to dinner the following Sunday.

My uncle joined us for dinner as did his son and five other cousins. We shared stories of my mom and lamented that she had been the family historian. We lost some family history when she succumbed to Alzheimer's because no one else seemed to recall so much of our family's story. I confessed guilt that I hadn't gotten around to documenting more of it as I'd intended before her memory faded. We also laughed and discussed how my mother would have been the person in the family who would have wept with joy the most if she had been aware of Barack Obama's victory.

The night Barack Obama won, I sat overnight with my mother. At her hospital bedside, I told my her, "Mom, a black man just won the presidency. Mom, America now has its first African-American president." She looked at me blankly, and I refused to meditate on the significance of her stare.

At dinner, my aunt talked about what it meant for her to see Obama win. She reminded us that she, like my mother, had gone to Louisiana schools and used discarded, damaged books from white schools under separate but equal, had sat at the back of the bus. She said she "cried like a baby" the night he won. I remembered that prior to his winning she'd feared "they won't let him win." She feared his assassination.

And then she said the most astonishing thing, "I'm going to that inauguration. You watch. I just want to be there. Someone from this family has to be there."

I was puzzled, knowing how hard it was to get tickets, but didn't dare tell her otherwise. "Yeah, well I'll go too if you get your tickets," I said.

For Thanksgiving dinner, my aunt came with her daughter and granddaughter to my house. She announced that she had her tickets and was definitely going to the inauguration. A friend in California had worked some magic, and my aunt would go with that friend.

Christmas came and we went to my aunt's house. Not only was she going to the inauguration, she was going to the inaugural ball. What! Well, she had to take pictures, I said.

"No, I thought about that. Someone else will have to take pictures. I don't want to miss something fiddling with a camera. I just want to be there, know I'm there and take everything in," said my aunt.

On some level, her decision to not "fiddle with the camera" annoyed me. I think that was the journalist in me and the blogger. If she took pictures, I could blog that. YAY! Plus, we'd have these great photos for the family picture album. Yet, on another level, I understood what she meant.

I have been standing in the midst of history or in the midst of good memories in the making before but barely remember now what happened because I was busy taking notes or shooting pictures or interviewing someone. In a frenzy of doing, I wasn't really there.

Frequently we 21st century humans are just like Martha in the New Testament, the woman who is busy working when we should be still like her sister Mary, who sat at Jesus's feet, being in the moment to gain understanding. No, I am not comparing Barack Obama to Jesus. What I'm saying is that with this celebration of Obama's inauguration, we will all experience a sacred moment, a memory to cherish from which we may gain understanding.

The moment is sacred because it is the first time in a long time that a phenomenal number of Americans and people around the world from different backgrounds will rejoice at once and hope in the future together. Afterward, we may revert to our old selves, taking sides across the chasm and taking aim at each other, or we may transform and wake up on common ground.

I don't want to miss the moment that precedes this opportunity for transformation. If I busied myself with planning a web event, sending out invitations, coaxing the occasional "big poet" with the big head who may think nothing happens without his or her presence to join me, fretting about who thinks Baracku is cool and who doesn't, obsessing over the number of hits or what constitutes success, then I would miss the blessed moments leading to sacred moment and the sacred itself.

Consequently, I'm taking the route of the rested mind. The rested mind is a receiver and a soul that pushes nothing.

I still like the idea of Baracku, a name I chose because it plays on the president-elect's name and Japanese style of verse, Haiku; and considering the meaning of the name "Barack," which is blessed, I'm tickled that Baracku could also be interpreted as a series of blessed linked verse. Furthermore, I am stoked that the man with whom most people will associate Baracku is someone the world associates with using words to inspire.

Therefore, Baracku is hyperlinked poetic expression that focuses the mind on positive change. It should invoke blessings for or provoke a mind shift toward transforming the human spirit individually or corporate to a higher state of consciousness that embraces service to humanity and the planet. It should inspire hope or provoke the desire to make the world better through ethnic inclusion, racial harmony, good stewardship of the planet, social justice, peace, etc. It should help us look up from the darkest valley and see paths to the mountaintop. In its original form, because it is tied to posting on Twitter, Baracku is by necessity less than 132 characters so it allows space for the #baracku hash tag. Use of the hash tag is a social media solution so surfers can view these poetic meditations in one spot. (para refined 1/20/09)

Through this focused use of a social media tool, I believe poets and writers will find a small way to keep the spirit of harmony, renewal and transformation sweeping the country flowing beyond Inauguration Week January 2009. However, there are other art forms through which the spirit of Baracku, the desire to keep hope's flame burning through artistic endeavor, may be embraced. I hope you will join me in this creative experiment. So, write and release a blessing. Paint and release a blessing. Dance and release a blessing. Blog and release a blessing. Tweet and release a blessing.

It's hard to meditate on blessing rather than cursing, but when you are focused on blessing, get in touch with me and the world. When your motivation is to enlighten, love, and bless the minds of your fellow humans, when you produce a video or poem or visual art piece with no agenda other than to advance positive change, unify and not divide, encourage peaceful spirits, explore nonviolent solutions for social change, please follow twitter.com/baracku and tweet a verse to blessedness or bliss.

You may also join baracku.ning.com to share longer poetry, stories, artwork, music, or video, your prayers or good hopes for this nation, this world, and our children's futures. (Warning: I'm not up to tweaking the ning site much yet.)

Be in this moment of blessing and the moments that follow.

Happy Inauguration Day and Happy Martin Luther King Day as well.

The photo of the painting used comes from CNN's piece on Obama-inspired artwork:
Fung's paintings helped raise thousands of dollars for the Obama campaign. "His likeness has gone beyond who he is as a person," said Fung. "He represents the spirit of change." (CNN)