Gary resident Benjamin Barnes Sr. attends the 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama. Barnes is among a group of Northwest Indiana residents who are traveling to Washington, D.C., to attend the 2013 inauguration. | Photo Provided~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 21, 2013 6:32AM
While traveling out of town during winter may mean a respite from cold weather for some, a certain group of area residents have another goal in mind.
They will be attending the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C.
“Whenever I plan events, I try to make them educational and informational. African-American history is very moving and needs to be seen and heard,” said trip coordinator Benita Arnold, of East Chicago. “We have to make this historic moment a teaching and learning moment for our children and grandchildren.”
This is the second trip to an inauguration for Arnold. She put together a similar trip four years ago to attend the first Inauguration.
Gary resident Benjamin Barnes Sr. was present at that first one, and will be going again this year.
“I attended the first inauguration because I wanted to show support for our first elected African-American president,” Barnes said. “I am going this time because it shows me that here in America, even though there are pockets of racism, the majority of the people elected the president not because of the color of his skin, but, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. hoped for, he was elected because of the content of his character and his faith and hope in them.”
Photographs of that first trip have become special to Barnes.
“I never will forget the looks on people’s faces as the president delivered his inaugural speech,” Barnes said. “I want to capture those expressions for a second time.”
In addition to the inauguration ceremony, this year’s itinerary covers a plantation tour, casino visit and shopping excursions.
Other activities include a tour of the Washington, D.C., area and a parade and ceremony at the King monument at Howard University.
Participants in the trip hail from across Northwest Indiana, Chicago and the south suburbs. Ages range from teen to senior citizen.
Crown Point siblings Anthony Gage, 16, and Jei Avonni Gage, 13, are making their first journey to the nation’s capital and will accompany their mother Donna Gage.
“The first time President Obama was elected, I knew it was history. But now that I’m older, I can really see the importance of this second inauguration,” Anthony said. “Young people today want to see changes in the world, and they know that for that to happen, they need to become involved with the process.”
Like her brother, Jei Avonni also is looking forward to the four-day excursion.
“This will help with my social studies,” she said of the trip. “And I’ll better understand what King fought for.”