Inauguration Day: Blue Ticket Blues

blue-gate

Although I feel extremely lucky to be in the nation’s capitol during the 56th Inauguration of President Barack Obama, I was one of the unfortunate few that never made it past the security screening for the swearing-in event.

Crowd at Metro Station
Crowd at Metro Station

My morning began with heading down to the Mall area around 7 a.m. After facing massive crowds on the subway (Metro) and the closure of the designated Metro stop for my “blue” ticket, I reached the line for the blue ticket holders (before 8 a.m. and the opening of the gates). The blue area was full of people and completely disorganized. There weren’t any police, security, guides or Inauguration staff in the vicinity to ensure order.

After standing in the line for over an hour, the mass of ticket holders began encircling the line. People were shouting, “stop cutting” in hopes of preventing the disarray. However, no amount of chanting or “tsking” could prevent the confusion and chaos that erupted.

Crowd of Blue Ticket Holders
Crowd of Blue Ticket Holders

While standing in line (around 10-10:30 a.m.), an off-duty police officer who happened to be at the event told us that a generator had gone down. As a result, several blue gate security screening stations weren’t working, which affected the amount of people able to pass through the gate. However, the officer said we would all be admitted. (This unauthorized communication was the only information we received during this entire process.)

The people in the crowd began to amuse themselves by singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful” and other patriotic songs. (Oh, they also sang “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”) And after desperation set in as the clock inched closer to 11:30 a.m., the crowd began chanting: “Let us in. Let us in.”

My friends and I stood in this line for about 4 hours before finally realizing that we weren’t going to get through the security gate and screening. There were still thousands of people in front (and around) us. After hearing “Hail to the Chief” around 11:30 a.m., we realized we definitely weren’t getting in and headed back.

Outside the Blue Gate
Outside the Blue Gate

We were pretty disappointed with the lack of organization in the blue area. After attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colo., I was amazed at how the DNC could be so safe and orderly in comparison to the chaos of the Inauguration swearing-in ceremony.

Empty Security Screening Gates
Empty Security Screening Gates

There have been several reports regarding ticket holders that were turned away. Although the blue section appears to have the most problems, the purple and silver sections also had ticket holders who didn’t gain access to the event. Reporters from the Washington Post and London’s The Telegraph wrote about these unfortunate incidents.

Although I didn’t end up witnessing the swearing-in ceremony in its “true” fashion, I am still happy that I traveled from Los Angeles to D.C. to be a part of the whole Inaugural event. The crowds remained mostly positive and upbeat despite the widespread disappointment. I met people from all around the world who were so inspired by Obama to make the trip. We all knew that we were just feet away from Barack Obama and this historic moment.

Still hopeful and excited,

The Caramel Bella

P.S. Video and more pictures to come….




President-Elect Barack Obama’s Victory Speech – “Change has come to America”

Just in case you missed President-Elect Barack Obama’s victory speech given on Tuesday, Nov. 4th, here it is. (Or if you are like me and want to hear it again and again.) It is as inspiring 3 days later as it was on the day it was given. America will never forget these words and this historic day.

Smooches,

The Caramel Bella




Caramel Bella’s Photo Gallery from the DNC 2008

Yes… I know I am slow. Take a look at my pictures from the Democratic National Convention. You’ll see some political and celebrity greats like Jesse Jackson Jr., Rev. Al Sharpton, Essence’s Susan Taylor, Tatiana Ali and more. What a blast!

Smooches,

The Caramel Bella




Reality TV Star, Omarosa, talks presidential politics with the Caramel Bella

She’s no Sarah Palin, but in the reality television world Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth can also be described as tough, dogged and a fearsome competitor. I recently had the opportunity to catch up with Omarosa, who first appeared on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice” show. Some of you may remember her from season one, in which many viewers felt she stabbed fellow African-American competitor, Kwame Jackson, in the back during the final round. Omarosa, who has appeared on two seasons of “The Apprentice,” VH1’s “Surreal Life” and on “I Love New York” was very clear with me about the three most important issues to consider in this presidential election. Let’s listen to her dish.

Interview: Brooke-Sidney Gavins
Multimedia Producer: Sharifa Johka
Video editing: Brooke-Sidney Gavins




Caramel Bella @ the DNC: Caramel Bella Talks Politics with the RZA

Check out my interview with the RZA of WuTang posted online at PopandPolitics.com…

Who knew Wu-Tang’s The RZA was such a pundit? We caught up with him last night in the press line at Creative Coalition’s celebration of African-American leadership. In just five minutes, RZA dished on Denver, Obama, McCain, the election, and African-American youth culture. He was earnest and insightful, sharing honest thoughts without pretending to be an authority.

Like Bobby Digital, the RZA is yet another example of the strong African-American presence throughout Denver. Being here, you can feel the level of energy and rallying behind Obama’s candidacy that is both electric and very palpable. It’s one thing to hear the talking heads espouse about the excitement behind the campaign, it’s another thing to actually see and feel the historic nature of this candidacy first-hand.

Interview: Brooke-Sidney Gavins
Multimedia Producer: Sharifa Johka
Video editing: Chris Nelson




Caramel Bella @ DNC: Man Down

DNC Bike Protester 2

DNC Bike Protesters

DNC Protester

On the eve of the democratic roll call event, I could feel the electricity and tension in the air as I walked down the streets of downtown Denver. Although Sen. Obama was expected to receive the majority vote and formal nomination for the Democratic presidential ticket, there existed the possibility that Hillary Clinton could somehow snatch the nomination from him.

And there were rumors of protests and riots by angry Hillary supporters, vets against the war and other groups outraged with the Bush Administration.

So I wasn’t surprised to find myself in the middle of a standoff between the Denver police and a group of bikers. Although I am not certain how the protest began, but when I arrived the police had already set-up a barricade to prevent at least 100 bikers from continuing their ride down Wazee Street near 16th street mall.

I stopped David, a biker in the protest, and asked him to explain the situation:

“We wanted to bike through. We are not bothering anybody. We just wanted to bike through the city. It’s our city. We pay taxes. We aren’t contributing to the air pollution. We are even increasing our fitness.”

The DNC in Denver has earned its reputation as the greenest and most environmentally friendly convention ever. So it was surprising that bikers weren’t allowed easy access to the city streets during the convention. The Freewheelin’ organization even provided free bike rentals to DNC attendees to reduce the amount of driving and air pollution during the convention. The event attracted a lot of resident bikers, many of whom had traded their cars for bikes for environmentally conscious reasons.

“I gave up a 2007 Dodge Magnum that got 12 miles to the gallon for this bike to be a conscious citizen of this planet,” said David. “It’s time for all of us to get the tenacity to do what is right. That is why I am voting for Obama.”

When the protest appeared to settle down, one angry participant walked up to the police and spit at them. He was then pushed to the ground, hit with batons, sprayed with mace, handcuffed and escorted off by the police. And the crowd and protesters chanted: “The world is watching.”

See the events unfold here.

Interview: Brooke-Sidney Gavins
Multimedia Producer: Sharifa Johka
Video editing & Photography: Brooke-Sidney Gavin
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Caramel Bella @ DNC: Can Obama & the Dems beat the GOP on National Security?

Joe Klein of TIME Magazine at Truman National Security Event (DNC)

Today’s theme at the DNC is “Securing America’s Future,” a topic made more urgent by the Iraq war and the simmering Russian-Georgian conflict.

Like me, I am sure you are wondering what national security will look like if Barack Obama is elected president. And I wonder how the democrats will face the challenge that Obama is losing to McCain on the issues of national security.

The CNN and Opinion Research Corporation poll released today “indicates that the American public considers presumed Republican presidential nominee John McCain better than Obama on terrorism and Iraq, and voters consider McCain a stronger leader who would have better judgment in an international crisis.”

In fact, the poll shows that 78 percent feel McCain can handle the responsibilities of commander-in-chief with only 58 percent who feel Obama can. McCain also led Obama on perception as a stronger leader and who would have best judgment in an international crisis by 10 percent or more spread.

So, I recently attended the “Next Administration’s National Security & Defense Priorities” event presented by the Truman National Security Project to answer these questions about Obama as the next commander-in-chief. The presentation featured Obama advisors former Secretary of Defense William Perry and former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig and Joe Klein of TIME magazine was the moderator.

At the outset, I was surprised to find a discussion held by progressives on national security. Many people seem to think that Republicans are the only ones concerned about defense, military capabilities, national security and foreign policy. This misconception couldn’t be farther from the truth. The Truman event showed that Democrats and Progressives across the country have been developing alternative ways to structure national security discussions, but who is listening? Is their message getting through to the voting America public?

The former Secretary of Defense William Perry began the event by stating national security involves more than the use of military force, but a cohesive and comprehensive national security agenda to develop tactical initiatives. Former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig agreed and believes the Bush Administration went wrong in this area.

“The Iraq surge was ill-conceived because it was simply tactical without an overall national security strategy,” said Danzig.

Danzig proposed America make investments in a broad range of national security goals, not a single wartime event or military tactic.

He proposed that America consider a new paradigm on national security policy and cited three components of Obama’s national security proposal.

  1. We (U.S.) can’t do all of this ourselves. We must work with others. – The world is multilateral. We can’t handle all of the world’s problems alone.
  2. Other nations must be in the forefront. – The U.S. needs allies to take the lead.
  3. We (U.S.) must understand the huge political dimensions in the world. – Our actions don’t exist in a vacuum, so we must understand their political ramifications. We must also respect and understand the politics of other nations.

Obviously, Danzig supports Obama’s thoughts on national security but he also believes that character matters heavily in selecting our next commander-in-chief.

“A sense of trust in the candidate to be commander-in-chief is important,” said Danzig. “Obama has the quality of character required.”

Danzig said the key qualities are an evenness of temperament, an ability to listen and an awareness of the phenomena of the 21st century. All of these qualities Obama possesses said Danzig.

“I’ve seen Obama under a great amount of pressure and I’ve never seen Obama lose his temper and balance,” said Danzig. “And McCain is well known for ‘losing it.’”

Obama also talks with people that both agree and disagree with his positions, which Danzig said is key to a great commander-in-chief. “Obama’s position is that he wants people to disagree with him so he can understand their perspective.”

Danzig noted that McCain does not have these same character traits. And he said “McCain often arrives at views too quickly, digs in very deeply and this quality is very destructive.”

And although youthfulness is not a requirement for our next president, Danzig thinks it’s a good idea for our next commander-in-chief to understand the century that we are living in and modern technology.

McCain doesn’t use a blackberry. And when asked about the Internet, McCain said he is going to check out “the Google,” said Danzig. Will McCain comprehend cyber security and other more technologically advanced security threats?

After hearing an hour and a half of discussions on national security and the strengths and weakness of Obama and McCain, my biggest realization was that the Democratic Party has some serious work to do. For some reason, Americans seem to trust Republicans more in times of war and foreign policy, which is surprising in light of the Iraq war. And the democrats, Danzig, Perry and Truman policy analysts may have some great ideas, but who is really listening? Can Obama’s choice of Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as VP level the playing field?

Obama and Biden have some serious work to breakthrough misconceptions on Democrats and national security and even more work to lead the discussions. Let’s get cracking boys!




Caramel Bella @ The DNC: Are Hillary Dems Just Misunderstood?

After a chance encounter with Cory F. Heitmeier, a district-level Louisiana delegate, at the Convention Center recently, I asked the following question: Do we really understand Hillary Rodham Clinton Democrats and their position on Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy?

Since Barack Obama became the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, the media has done a good job of painting Hillary Democrats as bitter, middle-aged women. Well, Mr. Heitmeier was neither bitter, middle-aged nor a woman. In fact, he was a die-hard Hillary supporter, but also optimistic and excited about Barack Obama’s presidential candidacy.

“I do believe on Thursday the outdoor auditorium will be full to capacity,” said Heitmeier. “It will be a historic event that we are going to see a black man accept the nomination of my party. So, how could I not be proud to be an American and to be a Democrat?”

There is also big talk by some political analysts that scorned Hillary democrats are going to vote for McCain. Not only was Heitmeier completely against the idea of voting for McCain but any Republican.

“I am a yellow-dog democrat,” he said. “I will vote for a yellow dog before I ever vote for a republican. So it doesn’t matter who the nominee is at the end of the day. I will support Sen. Obama 100 percent because anything is better than four more years of failed Bush policy.”

He further added that voting for McCain just seemed like a crazy thing to do.

As a Hillary pledged delegate, Heitmeier is committed to vote for Clinton at the DNC. Therefore during role call, he will cast his vote for Senator Clinton. However, when it is time to vote during the November 2008 presidential election, he said, “I will proudly vote for Barack Obama.”

And in terms of Democrat party disunity, Heitmeier disagreed.

“The best thing for the Democrat party was George W. Bush,” said the Louisiana delegate. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person to unify our party.”

Heitmeier said he could understand why the youth is so connected to Obama because he spoke to their younger generation.

“Hillary Clinton was my Obama from a previous generation. She could relate to the people of Louisiana and the youth of earlier generations,” he said.

So, perhaps not all Hillary Democrats are women, planning to vote for McCain, upset about Obama, and creating party disunity.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it all you 24 hour newscycle peeps.

(Also posted at PopandPolitics.com)




Caramel Bella @ DNC: Michelle Obama’s Speech “Just like Mom”

Last night I attended the opening night of the Democratic National Convention and heard Michelle Obama speak. And I caught myself feeling as though I was listening to someone’s sister or mother, or even my own.

Although Mrs. Obama’s speech was written to garner political support for her husband’s presidential candidacy, I believe her speech last night was devised for a greater goal. Michelle Obama’s words were part of the campaign’s strategy to soften and re-make her image and the importance of family.

The criticism of Mrs. Obama seemed to begin after her comments at a Milwaukee, Wisconsin campaign stop in February, in which she said:

“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction.”

Although Mrs. Obama contends that her words were taking out of context, and that she has always been proud of her country, her critics call her unpatriotic. Mrs. Obama has also been caricaturized as the “Angry Black Woman” and rumors have circulated that she calls people “whiteys.”

A New York Times article quoted Michelle Obama as saying that her calling anyone “whitey” couldn’t be further from the truth.

“You are amazed sometimes at how deep the lies can be,” she says in an interview. Referring to a character in a 1970s sitcom, she adds: “I mean, ‘whitey’? That’s something that George Jefferson would say. Anyone who says that doesn’t know me. They don’t know the life I’ve lived. They don’t know anything about me.”

So, it wasn’t surprising to me that Mrs. Obama’s speech on the first night of the Democratic National Convention would seek to discredit these rumors and alleged misunderstandings of her. Mrs. Obama wants the world to understand the real Michelle Obama: a mother, a wife, and a daughter. She wants us to feel as though she is one of us, and that family is most important.

In her speech, Michelle Obama says: “I come here tonight as a sister blessed with a brother who is my mentor, my protector and lifelong friend. I come here as a wife who loves my husband and believes he will be an extraordinary husband. I come here as a mom whose girls are the heart of my heart and the center.”

To further drive the importance of family home, Mrs. Obama was introduced by her brother, Craig, and began her speech with several mentions to her relationship with her father, who she can feel looking down on her.

In addition to trying to soften her image, Mrs. Obama sought to paint a picture of herself and Obama as two kids from working class families, who have overcome obstacles to achieve the American dream. Mrs. Obama firmly believes that through hard work and faith, anything is possible.

Michelle Obama speech was used to tell the American people that the Obama family is just like yours. We have “common values and a common purpose” – a new theme now used by the Obama campaign. Their values include “your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them and even if you don’t agree with them.”

And I believe Mrs. Obama’s DNC speech sought to dispel the July 21, 2008 cover of The New Yorker magazine, which depicted Mrs. Obama as an angry, militant black woman, and Obama as a Muslim terrorist.

I think Mrs. Obama hoped that Americans watching and listening to her speech could maybe, just maybe, close their eyes and simply hear the words of a mother, a sister or wife of someone they knew.




Caramel Bella @The DNC: Celeb sightings at African American Leadership Celebration

Well, after landing safely in Denver, I headed straight to the Democratic National Convention events with multimedia producer, Sharifa Johka. Our first stop was Mezcal restaurant for the African American Leadership celebration sponsored by The Creative Coalition, The National Black of State Legislators and Eli Lilly. The event featured several celebrities such as Spike Lee, the event’s honoree, Tonya Lewis Lee (Spike Lee’s wife), Lynn Whitfield, Alfre Woodard, Judge Mathis, Omarosa, the Rza of WuTang, Bob Johnson, the founder of BET and Charlotte Bobcats owner. The beautiful actress Kerry Washington and handsome Matthew Modine were also in attendance. Their goal was to raise awareness of the arts and support Barack Obama’s campaign to become president.

During the evening, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bob Johnson, the Rza, Omarosa, Bob Johnson and Matthew Modine. I also caught up with some young reporters from the Children’s Press Line. Check out my pictures below.

Kerry Washington & Brooke-Sidney Gavins

Actress Kerry Washington & Brooke-Sidney Gavins

Sharifa & Kerry Washington

Sharifa Johka & Actress Kerry Washington

Sharifa & the Rza

Sharifa Johka & the Rza of WuTang

Matthew Modine

Actor Matthew Modine




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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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