Jasmine Moore, a senior at Pine Bluff High School, was among the more than 300 Arkansans who went to Washington, D.C., for the second inauguration of President Barack Obama in a trip sponsored by the Arkansas Martin Luther King Jr. Commission.
Moore was sponsored by Pine Bluff-based Ivy Center for Education Inc., organized in 2004 to empower young people to reach their fullest potential.
Mattie Collins, president of the Ivy Center and a retired Pine Bluff High School world history teacher, traveled with Moore to the nation’s capital along with Virginia Hymes, a long-time art teacher at PBHS, and Ivy Center executive director Patricia Berry.
Moore was thankful for the opportunity to take part in the historic occasion.
“The Ivy Center chose me to experience the inauguration,” Moore said. “It was a great experience although it was cold. I enjoyed being able to hear it in person as opposed to seeing it on TV.”
“I enjoyed being there, especially after getting through security,” Moore laughed, making reference to the long lines that built up at designated entry points along the National Mall where all inaugural attendees went through metal detectors and were processed by Transportation and Security Administration agents before being able to enter the venue for the ceremony.
“I enjoyed getting to see all of the different people who were there,” Moore said. “It wasn’t just one race. It was different races so it shows the great impact of what the president is doing. It’s not just African-Americans who support him. Being there gave me more of an outlook on how everyone gets a part of what he is doing. They get their own gist of what he’s doing.
“After getting through security for the inauguration it was nice to see the large number of people out supporting President Obama despite all of the negative things that are said about him in the media,” Moore said. “His speech he gave me insight as a teenager into what he is going to do in some of the areas that will be beneficial to me.”
Moore said that she also enjoyed the King/Obama Celebration ball that was hosted by the Arkansas MLK Commission and held at the hotel where the trip participants were staying.
Moore’s post-graduation plans include college.
“I want to go to college at Arkansas State University and major in chemistry with a pre-med track,” Moore said. “I want to do medical research once I finish, particularly in the areas of sickle cell anemia, leukemia and breast cancer.”
Collins is passionately devoted to doing whatever she can to contribute to the success of young people in the Pine Bluff area.
“I just think the world of young people,” Collins said. “When events like this come up the community needs to come together and make sure that our kids get a chance to benefit from it. The Ivy Center is a mentoring program and we focus on two things; academic excellence and excellence in character.
“I was excited about the inaugural invocation given by Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers,” Collins said. “I will never forget Medgar Evers and what he went through while trying to integrate the University of Mississippi. The invocation prayer was so beautiful, so spiritual, so open-minded. All of us are God’s people and as far as race is concerned what she spoke about was not racial but about love and compassion and asking God to bless this nation and this world.”
Collins was also impressed by inaugural poet Richard Blanco and his poem ‘One Today.’
“I thought it was so well thought-out,” Collins said. “I’m just looking at all of the open-mindedness that I saw and how everyone was included.”
Collins said that she always thought Bill Clinton would be her favorite president until Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.
“I never dreamed I would like a president more than Bill Clinton,” Collins said. “I love President Clinton. We went to his inaugurations. I love Hillary. Because these are Arkansas folk. But, Lord, this thing with President Obama seems to be so personal and not because he’s a black man. It seems as though he does things from the heart and it’s as though I know him. Because it seems as though he makes everything so personal and he cares about people.
“When you look at the audience that supported Obama it was America,” Collins said. “That the inauguration fell on the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday really touched my heart.”
Hymes has taught art at Pine Bluff High School for many years and so it comes as no surprise that she turned to art to describe her inauguration experience.
“I was standing in this spot with this beautiful panoramic view of the Capitol and this greatness and this great crowd of people for miles around from all over the world and all over America,” Hymes said. “President Obama — this is what I saw because I am an artist — when President Obama walked back and looked over the audience, he was emotional and said ‘I’ll never see this crowd again.’ Then I thought about Dr. Martin Luther King in his speech when he said ‘I may not get there with you but we as a people will make it to the promised land.’ To me it was like King was taking his hand and reaching down from heaven and extending it to President Obama and then President Obama reached out to the crowd and said ‘I won’t see this again.’ It reminded me of Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel and his painting of the Creation with God reaching down to Adam and touching him with his hand.”