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Inauguration for ‘Inspiration’

BSU hosts an event to honor former President Barack Obama
Ruhaan Sood
Dressed as former U.S President Barack Obama, communications senior Josiah Manners delivers the same inaugural address as Obama did in 2009. BSU chose Josiah to play the role, which was important to him. “I was asked to do it, and it was a huge honor and responsibility. We don’t take things lightly. I definitely don’t,” Manners said.

Students crowd around a podium dressed in red, white, and blue. They sit on towels or stand in circles proudly displaying signs about the importance of voting. One says, “Vote, baby, vote”. 

On Feb. 20, 2024, to kick off the first day of Black Student Union’s (BSU) Spirit Week, BSU re-enacted the inauguration to honor the first Black president, Barack Obama. Students crowded around the front of Building 2 during lunch to listen to communications senior Josiah Manners give the former president’s speech.

“He was the first Black president, and that’s something monumental,” strings sophomore Julia Moyongo said. “That’s something that we all need to be reminded of because it proves that the struggles we as Black people face are not going to happen forever and things are going to change, and that was truly shown with the inauguration of Barack Obama. I think it’s really nice that they did that.”

For each day of BSU Spirit Week, the club hosts different events. Two years ago, Manners reenacted Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He felt it was an “honor” to be able to represent a Black historical figure twice for BSU Spirit Week.

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Standing behind a podium, theatre senior Mahogany Prichard sang the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” as a prelude to the inaugural speech. The anthem is meant to represent the promise of freedom and culture that a nation can provide. (Ruhaan Sood)

“People still need to know that one, there is hope, but two, we’re still headed in the right direction.” Manner said. “There may be some bumps along the way, but the biggest thing (is that) we don’t falter, and we don’t slow down. We don’t stop. We don’t back down. We keep moving forward.”

BSU co-sponsor and school counselor Rachelle Francois-Nicholas explained that one of BSU’s goals is to encourage students to look into the history of Black historical figures like Obama and his candidacy. In order to accurately represent the inauguration, theatre senior Mahogany Prichard sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is commonly referred to as the Black National Anthem. 

“Hopefully they’ll be able to be inspired, and hopefully this will allow them an opportunity to do a bit of research and watch the original inauguration so that they will be able to see exactly what transpired.” Ms. Nicholas said. “It’ll give them an opportunity to see if they are interested in being involved in politics.”

The performance wasn’t just for BSU members but for anyone who wanted to commemorate the first day of BSU Spirit Week. Manners blended the original speech with his own words, trying to keep it short to captivate the audience’s attention. 

“It’s not just about Black students on campus. We want to advance and enhance the culture of our campus for everyone,” Manners said. “I’d say that the reminder of the fact that there’s so much going on, so much change that’s happening. We haven’t lost sight of what truly matters, and that’s the people and the way in which they can continue to live in freedom and prosperity.”

This story was originally published on The Muse on February 20, 2024.