African-Americans ponder Obama′s legacy | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 17.01.2017
  1. Inhalt
  2. Navigation
  3. Weitere Inhalte
  4. Metanavigation
  5. Suche
  6. Choose from 30 Languages


African-Americans ponder Obama's legacy

This year's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade precedes Barack Obama passing the presidential baton to Donald Trump. It's proving plenty for participants to process, as Daniella Cheslow reports from Washington.

A year ago, US President Barack Obama invited Cynthia DeShola Dawkins to the White House, where he announced an executive order loaded with a raft of tighter gun control measures. Dawkins has been a strong advocate for gun control since her 24-year-old son, Timothy, was fatally shot in the back while going home in Washington, D.C. in 2013. On Monday, Dawkins held a framed picture of Timothy as she marched in a parade to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington's historically black Anacostia neighborhood.

"I was hopeful that something was going to change," Dawkins said. "But unfortunately I feel like we're going to be at a standstill for the next four years. I don't think any gun law changes are going to take place in the White House."

Washington, DC Parade für Martin Luther King Jr (DW/D. Cheslow)

Cynthia DeShola Dawkins, center, doesn't expect gun control measures in the next few years

The 11th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade brought together high school marching bands and cheerleaders, local activists and Trump protesters, who marched for about two miles on a brisk January afternoon to honor the slain civil rights leader.

Washington, DC Parade für Martin Luther King Jr

Local students play in a marching band as part of the parade

'It's a huge step back'

The mostly African-American crowd looked back on Obama's administration as a time of hope and unprecedented access mixed with worry about what will remain of his legacy under President-elect Donald Trump.

Gay rights activist A.J. King also met Obama when he attended an address in favor of gay marriage. In 2015, King returned to the White House to collect an award for a theater program he ran for the LGBTQ community.

Obama "made the White House feel like it was open to the public," King said. Under Trump, he continued, "I'm terrified. I think it's a huge step back."

This year's MLK Day celebrations fell just days before Trump's inauguration and amid a venomous exchange between the president-elect and one of the last living civil rights icons of the 1960s, Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat. Last week Lewis said Trump was not "a legitimate president" and announced he would skip the inauguration. Trump fired back, saying the lawmaker who was beaten by Alabama state police was "all talk, talk, talk."

On Saturday, Reverend Al Sharpton led 2,000 people on a protest march near a monument to Dr. King in the capital and urged his supporters to fight for their voting rights and universal healthcare. 

Disappointed in Obama's tenure

Although some of the participants in Monday's parade worried, others saw Trump's election as an opportunity to rally black activists and their supporters.

Aaron Goggans said he attended MLK Day events last year as an organizer with Black Lives Matter, and that he and others held placards demanding an end to police violence against unarmed African-Americans. This year, he said, the feeling was different.

Washington, DC Parade für Martin Luther King Jr (DW/D. Cheslow)

Students dance to honor the slain civil rights leader days before Trump takes office

"A lot of us if we had the choice again we wouldn't push for a black president because it allowed us to forget how deep white supremacy goes," he said.

The Colorado Springs native said he first noticed what he saw as a pattern of racism during Hurricane Katrina, which fell heavily on African-American neighborhoods. Goggans, 28, was in high school at the time.

"I saw the very biased media reporting," he said. "Black people were always looting while white people were getting food for their families."

Even though he cried with joy when Obama was elected, Goggans said he is disillusioned that Obama did not make a stronger case for racial equality. This year, Goggans voted for the Green Party.

A revolution without dancing

Despite several protest banners, the parade was overall upbeat, driven by marching band drum sets, exuberant dancing, and a truck blasting music down the boulevard.

Faye Joyner stood on the sidelines outside her apartment building and cheered on the acts with her daughter and granddaughter. As one group of girls passed by dancing in black leotards, white leggings and white boots, she shouted "work it, girls!" and snapped pictures.

Washington, DC Parade für Martin Luther King Jr (DW/D. Cheslow)

Faye Joyner cheers on the parade outside her apartment in Washington's Anacostia neighborhood

She said she registered to vote for the first time to elect Obama in 2008, and his win coincided with her own personal victory over a drug problem. Joyner is now a motivational speaker and minister.

"There's a purpose in this," she said of Trump's election. "It's going to make people get up who need to get up."

Others were more militant. A group of protesters beat a snare drum and shouted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascism in USA."

One local resident in his 20s stood quietly on the side of the road.  He declined to be named because he works for the government. He said he did not vote for Trump but he will be at his swearing-in "just to support the inauguration and the peaceful transfer of power."

He said Obama had inspired him to imagine seeking public office.

"I look up to President Obama. I think his level of professionalism as well as sincerity will be unmatched," he said. "He left with a great impression, and just being an individual of color, I feel I have an obligation to keep his legacy going."

Watch video 26:00

Obama's Legacy: Can It Survive Trump?

DW recommends

Audios and videos on the topic