Like many Chicagoans, I got up early to get tickets and waited outside of McCormick Place in a line that stretch from MLK to the highway. It was amazing to see, but it wasn't shocking because I remember a similar response when Obama was elected in 2008. I don’t remember his speech, but I remember the faces and the energy of Chicagoans of all different colors, genders, religions, opinions, ethnicities, and occupations who attended in that gathering for hope.
Like many Chicagoans, I left McCormick Place empty handed, so I turned to social media to ask if anyone had tickets to donate. I thought I'd give it a try, not just for me, but for the teens we serve. Human connection is very powerful, and I knew attending a sitting president's farewell speech would be transformative and might change the trajectory of a teenager's life.
Within a few hours, I received an email from news stations that said they were moved by my post and would like to interview me. DNA Info put out the first article, and then the magic happened. I got a call from three ladies who live in Rogers Park, Lakeview, and Edgewater on the North Side of Chicago. Then DNA Info published a second article, and I got a call from Alderman James Cappleman of the 46th Ward. Although President Obama is his favorite president and he really wanted to attend, the story moved him so much that he wanted to support. Thanks also to Melinda Kelly from the Chatham Business Association, who has always been a leader in the community and one of my personal role models, for reaching out.
At 3:00 p.m., I picked the teens up from school, and Fox News, ABC, and NBC were there to greet them. We parked a few blocks from McCormick Place, and after walking at a slow pace for 5 hours, made it through Secret Service security to the standing-only section. When the president took the stage, the roar of the 15k crowd was massive. Although we were too far back to have a good view, we could see the shimmer of his gestures. Knowing that shimmer was the President of the United States was the literally one of the proudest moments in my life.
DeJanae King said hearing the President speak about science and math made her want to step her game up because those are the things she struggles with the most.
As always, knowing these teens' were full of hope when I dropped them off on their blocks was the best part.
After a long night, CNN flew me out to NYC at 5 a.m. on Wednesday to participate in "The Messy Truth" CNN Townhall Discussion, hosted by Van Jones. I was tasked with asking a question to the panelist that involves gun violence and the new administration. I promised myself I wouldn't say "My Block, My Hood, My City" too many times--four or five times will do.