Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony signals the official transition of power as a result of the historic 2020 presidential election in which Joe Biden claimed victory over Donald Trump. Biden’s running mate, Kamala Harris, made history as the first Black and South Asian woman elected to the office of Vice President.
A group of Black leaders and entertainers will help the incoming Biden-Harris administration usher in a new chapter in America’s history, with the hopes to refresh and rejuvenate a deeply divided nation.
Ceremonies are slated to begin around 11:30 am ET. Biden and Harris will be sworn in at the West front of the U.S. Capitol building. Harris will be sworn in first by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, while Biden will be sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts. Afterward, they will each deliver remarks.
Following a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony, Biden, Harris and their families will be accompanied by the Clintons, Bushes and the Obamas. Biden and Harris will then return to D.C., where they will be escorted by the drumlines from their alma maters, the University of Delaware and Howard University, respectively. Supplemental programming is scheduled throughout the day and into the evening around Wednesday’s events.
However, over the last few months, an unprecedented turn of events spurred by white supremacy and white nationalism have all but thwarted any semblance of decency as the country prepares to welcome the Biden-Harris administration.
On Jan. 6, a group of insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol with apparent intentions to kill and kidnap members of Congress, along with anyone else who stood in their way. Trump’s repeated baseless claims of voter fraud, mainly aiming to disenfranchise the power of the Black vote, served as the match that ignited the fearful actions. Not surprisingly, the Trumps will not attend the inauguration and have declined to meet with the Bidens ahead of Wednesday’s events. Vice President Mike Pence stated he will attend.
Biden and Harris will be sworn in facing a fractured electorate, fatigued from the ongoing political and social justice climate, as well as laboring through the pandemic. A Tuesday NBC News poll revealed widespread pessimism regarding what comes next, as seven out of every 10 voters said they believe the country is headed towards permanent fracture.
Due to the coronavirus, ceremonies are closed to the public and can be streamed online at BidenInaugural.org/watch and will be shown live on all major news networks. And due to the violence at the Capitol, extra measures were taken to ensure security, including the presence of the National Guard as white supremacists threaten more violence on Inauguration Day.
In preparation for Wednesday, 200,000 flags were placed in the National Mall in Washington, D.C., paying homage to the nearly 400,000 people who have died during the pandemic.
To read the full schedule of Inaugural Ceremonies, click here.
In the meantime, keep reading and scroll down to see the growing list of notable Black folks who are involved in Inauguration Day in some way, shape or form.
1. Andrea Hall, fire captain, South Fulton, GeorgiaSource:City of Fulton, Georgia
Andrea Hall, city of South Fulton’s fire captain will lead the Pledge of Allegiance during Wednesday’s ceremony, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Hall, 47, is the president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920 which endorsed Biden early in his presidential campaign. She began her career in fire services in 1993, earning the rank of fire captain in 2004. “I just am intending to represent, my family, the city of South Fulton, women, African-American women, firefighters, and everyone in the nation, well,” she told the AJC.
2. Amanda Gorman, National Poet Youth LaureateSource:Getty
Gorman, 22, made history when she became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. Gorman was reportedly hand picked by Dr. Jill Biden. The Los Angeles Native and Harvard alum focuses on the marginalization of Black people, womanism and inequities in her work. On Wednesday she will read a poem titled, “The Hill We Climb,” in the tradition of other notables before her like Maya Angelou. “America is messy. It’s still in its early development of all that we can become. And I have to recognize that in the poem,” she told the Los Angeles Times. “I can’t ignore that or erase it. And so I crafted an inaugural poem that recognizes these scars and these wounds. Hopefully, it will move us toward healing them.”
3. Barack and Michelle ObamaSource:Getty
The former POTUS and FLOTUS will attend the wreath laying ceremony with President-elect Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff at Arlington National Ceremony. Former presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush will also be in attendance, along with First Lady’s Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush. The Obamas played a pivotal role in Biden’s election and will undoubtedly serve as loyal supporters to the incoming Biden-Harris administration.
4. Rev. Dr. Silvester Beaman, pastor, Bethel A.M.E ChurchSource:Bethel A.M.E. Church
Rev. Beaman will give the benediction during President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. Beaman, a HBCU graduate of Wilberforce University, is the pastor of Bethel A.M.E. Church, located in Wilmington, Delaware. Beaman’s participation at inauguration is the culmination of a 30-year-friendship with the president-elect. Beaman says that Biden routinely reaches out to hold conversation with church members in order to listen to the needs of Black community members, most recently during the protests surrounding George Floyd. “”I will be standing in front of a building that slaves built and I will be standing at a podium that a mob desecrated,” he added. “The last word that day will be the voice of God. I’m asking God to use me to channel his final grace upon the occasion and speak to the moment. And it’s an honor to do so,” Beaman told NBC News.
5. Howard University Showtime Marching Band
Members of the drumline are scheduled to escort Vice President-elect Kamala Harris at the 59th presidential inauguration on Jan. 20. Harris is a 1986 graduate of the institution, the first historically Black college chartered in 1867. The Showtime Marching Band will join the University of Delaware’s marching band as they escort President-elect Joe Biden.
6. Keke Palmer, actress, hostSource:Getty
KeKe Palmer will host the President Inaugural Committee’s first ever livestream dedicated to America’s youth titled, “Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans.” Dr. Jill Biden and Doug Emhoff are scheduled guests. Palmer is an award-winning actress and host who is very vocal on social media regarding the Black Lives Matter movement. Over the summer she interviewed then presidential candidate Joe Biden during a Facebook chat where they discussed the ongoing social unrest and Black Lives Matter demonstrations. “I can’t wait to host the first-ever #InaugurationDay program for young Americans, featuring @drbiden,” Palmer shared on Instagram.
7. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, writer, historianSource:EricaArmstrongDunbar.com
Dunbar will read remarks during “Our White House: An Inaugural Celebration for Young Americans.” Dunbar is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she obtained her degree in history and African-American studies. She also received a master’s and PhD from Columbia University.
8. John Legend, singer, producerSource:Getty
Legend will participate as one of the scheduled performers during the “Celebrating America” primetime special, hosted by actor Tom Hanks. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are scheduled to give remarks during the programming. Legend, who made history as the first Black man to reach “EGOT” status, has stumped for the Biden-Harris campaign and voting rights while openly condemning Trump’s racism and bigotry on social media.
9. Kerry Washington, actress, producerSource:Getty
Kerry Washington is also scheduled to give remarks during the “Celebrate America,” program. Washington delved into voting rights activism as one of the leaders of “When We All Vote,” a voting rights org headed by Michelle Obama. During the 2020 presidential campaign Washington appeared at several campaign stops advocating for Biden and Harris.
10. Eugene Goodman, Capitol Police officerSource:Getty
While it has not been officially reported, Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman participated in inauguration ceremony rehearsals over the past weekend, signaling that he may have an important role on Wednesday. Goodman is being heralded as a national hero after video of him averting members of the riot mob who attacked the Capitol, away from Senate chambers went viral. An ongoing campaign is underway to award Goodman with the Congressional Medal of Honor.