Scenes from an Inauguration

NY City Lens reporters captured the inauguration on the national mall and on the streets of New York

As Donald Trump, the nation’s 45th president, took the oath of office Friday, New Yorkers watched the ceremony with everything from apathy and apprehension to excitement and serious concern. On the streets of the city, NY City Lens reporters talked to residents and watched how they observed the historic moment—and in the nation’s capital, our staffers on assignment spoke with protestors and Trump supporters alike.

“That’s What Makes America Great”

On Thursday night, activists, celebrities, politicians, and citizens came together at the Trump International Hotel near Columbus Circle to protest in the eve of Donald Trump’s Inauguration as our 45th president. In the aftermath of the rally, on Friday afternoon, the scene was very different.

DSC_0008-2A group of around 20 people gathered outside the hotel to make a statement about immigrants’ rights. The demonstration was lead by El Centro del Inmigrante (The Immigrant Center) to both protest against the new president and his policies and also launch a campaign, called Freedom Cities.

“Sanctuary cities was the beginning, and it was good. Now, we need to move forward to a new concept, what we call freedom cities,” said Favio Ramirez Caminatti, executive director at El Centro del Inmigrante. “People who live in these cities should have rights to access all services, aside from their race, immigrant status, religious beliefs or their nationalities.”

“I hope the president can realize the great contribution that immigrants provide to this country. Without immigrants, this country can’t be great. The heterogeneity,” he added, “that’s what makes America great.”

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Another demonstrator, Daniel Castillo, 34, of the South Bronx, added: “What I fear the most is that he’s going to deport more immigrants,” he said. “Our safety is a threat with this president.”

At the corner of 59th and Broadway, a bullhorn was passed along for whomever wanted to raise their voice. Some did, others remained silent, holding their signs.

The protest ended with chants in Spanish and English. “El pueblo unido, jamás será vencido/ “The people united will never be defeated.” A few minutes after noon, the corner was empty again. —Belen Smole

trainAt the Train and Bus Stations, Indifference and Disdain

At the Port Authority Bus Station, not a single screen on the north end of the station was playing the inauguration. Even the USO office had its screens switched to the History Channel. It took 15 minutes of walking to find the inauguration, on a small screen in a sports bar at the south end of the concourse where the rest of the screens were tuned in to soccer.

And even there,  barely anyone was watching there until President Trump’s oath began. A woman came in to join a group of three, huddled around the corner of the bar where Trump was most audible. “I can’t believe this is happening,” she said to the bartender. “Not that I’m upset about it or anything.” Two more people peered in from the widows to catch a glimpse of the speech.

Penn Station offered more options to watch, with various screens tuned in to news channels off the main concourse as travelers came and went. All the trains to Washington were booked, according to Amtrak.  “Pink Pussy Hats”—a solidarity symbol of the Woman’s March on Washington—were visible.

“I’m so fired up,” said Karyn Starr, a mother on her way to the Women’s March on Washington with a poster made by her son clutched in hand that said “Love Trump’s Hate.” She said she hopes the new president “fucks up and gets impeached.”

Another in Starr’s group, Benedikta Karaisl, said, “I’m still patriotic. And, it’s important that we do and the world sees.” —Danish Mehboob

 

A Reluctant Witness in Times Square

For many tourists, Times Square means an iconic spot to take a few pictures, post them on social media, and then leave. But for Lisa Broome, it was a longer affair. She took a day off from her job and a three-hour-long train from Connecticut to Times Square Studios to watch the presidential inauguration.

“This is a spur-of-the-moment trip,” she said.

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Broome, 55, who lives in Deep River, Connecticut, said she decided to visit New York City two days ago, after she realized that she could not make it to Washington, D.C. She chose to come to watch the live coverage in New York City and use her camera to take pictures of people’s reactions, so she can keep this historical day in her memory.

More and more people stopped to watch the live coverage of Inauguration Day with Broome when the Chief Justice administered the oath to the president around noon. By the time President Trump finished his oath, about 15 people out of the 200 applauded and loudly yelled “President Trump.”

Broome was not one of them. She kept shaking her head and sighing.

A young man rode by on his bike. As soon as he saw President Trump talking, he gave the new president a middle finger for a few seconds, then left.

Broome stayed for few hours, even though it was cold and windy, and she said she couldn’t stand it when President Trump was talking. “We are supposed to elect someone who will speak for all of us, but he cannot even speak for himself,” she said Broome. Then she headed to Chinatown to have lunch.   – Zhiming Zhang

 

Why Watch the Moment Solo?

A crowd began to form on the corner of 44th and 7th, outside of ABC’s Good Morning America studios, approximately an hour before Donald Trump and Mike Pence took their Oath of Office, on a cold, overcast morning. Jeffrey Charlot was among the. He is a 19-year-old engineering major at NYU from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, but doesn’t have class on Fridays. So, instead of watching the ceremony in his apartment, Charlot wanted to witness the historical moment in Times Square.

“This is gonna be a new day for America,” said Charlot, a Republican who wants to join the military, like several members of his family. “I’m excited to see what change Trump will bring to the country.”

Charlot added that those who refused to accept a Trump presidency had no choice. “Whatever, it’s happening,” he said. “There’s nothing people can do about it now. Let’s see what change he can bring to this country. I sure do hope he knows what he’s doing.”

After images of former President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama flying away from Washington at the end of the ceremony flashed across the jumbo screens, the crowd began to dissipate.  –Patrick Ralph

Why Watch at All?

Ines Rodrigues was busy on Inauguration Day, running last minute errands at the bank, the laundry, and the grocery store before her flight to Brazil in the evening. In Starbucks for an iced coffee, Rodrigues did not have time to sit and watch Donald Trump being sworn in. She didn’t want to watch it, either.

“I can’t handle watching Obama leave the White House,” she said. Rodrigues is a 51-year-old Brazilian-American who is sorry to see the former president leave. “ This has been such a season of gloom and sadness.”

It has been two months since Donald Trump won the election and Rodrigues says she has not gotten over the disappointment yet. Or the shock. Rodrigues grew up in Brazil, went to Italy to study Italian, and met and married Irish-born David O’Connor. They moved to the United States 15 years ago. Rodrigues has two children, 17 and 9.

“The idea of the U.S. was so unique,” said Rodrigues. “ It was a society built on hard work, and anyone could be successful here. Now the idea itself is under threat.”

Rodrigues sees the sharp divide in the country, and feels that Trump won on false promises and prejudices that she thought people no longer harbored. “Staying in New York, it is appalling to realize that there is misogyny, there is race hatred.” said Rodrigues. “There are indeed two Americas.”

Once she reaches Brazil, Rodrigues knows she will hear plenty about Trump and the elections. “It is a bad joke,“ said Rodrigues. “That the world looks up to a country that is so inward looking and narrow minded now.” — Preeti Singh

At a Subway Stop, Life Goes On

At 11:45 a.m. on Friday, January 20th, Donald J. Trump was being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, and the West 4th subway station in Greenwich Village was bustling. But although the ceremony honoring the new president was being broadcast all over the world, the people milling around West 4th were paying little attention, either by choice or because they were busy.

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“I don’t like how the whole campaign went and I don’t want to be a hypocrite and turn around and sit and cheer him on as the next president,” said Lorenzo Scott, a 59-year-old actor from Brooklyn. He was on his way home to practice his lines. “The way he has spoken about women, his stance on race, and just his general politics I don’t like, so the best thing for me to do is stay as far away as possible.”

Meghan Edwards, 33, was heading to work in Tribeca and had similar thoughts. “I’m in complete denial,” she said. “I don’t want this to be happening right now and if I could, I would be on a bus right now to Washington to go and protest.”

Others simply had prior commitments. “In today’s times we have to be more flexible,” said Jo Shria, an IT worker from New Jersey who was on her way to a work meeting. “So let him do his bit.”

Anthony La Russo, 44, from Hudson Square was going home after a doctor’s appointment. He said he is putting his trust in the democratic process. “Maybe things will turn out accidentally better than the worst that we could have imagined,” said La Russo.

Catherine Coons, 22, from Washington Heights, said she remembered when former president Barack Obama was elected to office and all the negative statements that were said about him, including rumors that he was a Muslim and not born in the United States. Coons said she hopes, that just as those speculations turned out to be incorrect, the negativity surrounding Trump and his actions will prove to be false as well.

“He came into the light as a very negative person,” said Coons. “And I hope that all of that is just because he doesn’t know how to present himself as a politician, but not because he will ruin our country.” — Katryna Perera

In Staten Island, a Liberal Corner

“You are in the liberal part of Staten Island,” said 47-year-old Lauren White, a bartender at Jimmie Steiny’s Pub, a popular hang-out in the island’s St. George neighborhood, a few blocks from the borough hall. “People have always tried to simplify us,” said White.

Often referred as the “forgotten borough,” Staten Island has a different political climate than the other four boroughs: While 78.6 percent of the citywide votes went to Democratic Party candidate Hillary Clinton, more than 57 percent of voters from Staten Island casted their ballots for Trump, making itself the only “red borough” in the City. But on the island’s north shore, a “liberal pocket”—neighborhoods like Mariner’s Harbor and Stapleton—have consistently been “blue,” at least in the last several general elections.unspecified-1

And at Jimmie Steiny’s Pub, a majority of the 20 or more people watching Trump’s inauguration voiced their displeasure with the incoming president. “I’m a white woman. And I feel bad for minority women,” said Kelly Fuller, a 36-year-old Staten Island native and a federal government employee. “Now I actually feel safer in New York than in some other parts of the country.” In addition to women’s rights, Kelly said she was worried about her healthcare, as Trump promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Her friend, 55-year-old Clayton Augustin, said, “Trump is going to set us back for decades.”

Taking a cigarette break, Damon Irzany, 45, who works as a chef at the bar, was concerned about America’s relationship with the rest of the world. “Trump is a hothead. I’m concerned about the foreign relationships Obama built will go into flames,” he said.

But there were also the Trump voters who were excited about the new administration, “Donald Trump is a man of his words. He’s going to fix the economy and punish ISIS,” said Keith, a 60-year-old retiree. Because he was concerned about “being harassed by the liberals,” he was only willing to be identified by his first name.

Sitting at the other end of the bar table, Olie Oleson, 58, of Staten Island, said he was disappointed with Trump’s speech preparation. His friends agreed with him, until they learned that Oleson voted for Trump.

“What? You’ve got to be kidding,” said one. Another friend, who was holding a Bud Light, asked Oleson, “So now he is president, is it okay for man to just grab women?”

“See, that’s the classic liberal talk,” replied Oleson, and he turned back to the TV. — Keenan Chen

On or Near Wall Street: Joy and Disdain

As the 45th president of the United States was being sworn in on the steps of the Capitol, tourists took pictures in front of the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall. But the streets of Lower Manhattan were subdued for the most part. Still, appearances didn’t capture what some in the area were thinking. Some rejoiced and others clearly grieved.

Ralph Jensen, 74, an instructor from Staten Island was upbeat about the new president. “He’s a businessman and everything that he has done was with great knowledge. He is a man of his word, “ he said.

Others, like Cecil Pierre, a 46-year-old construction worker, didn’t mince words. “How do I feel about President Dump? That man is racist who is teaming up with another racist. He says bad things about Italians, African Americans, and Latinos. Now we’re going to have this reincarnation of Adolf Hitler,” he said. “The biggest worry that I have is that it’s the end of the world.” —Anya Chapman

Looking Forward to Tax Cuts

Kyle Hudson, an 18-year-old from Saratoga, New York, stood outside on Wall Street, wearing an American flag clip, eagerly awaiting the markets to open. The financial hub was eerily vacant.

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He was meant to be in Washington, D.C for the presidential inauguration, but his duties as the vice president of the Investment Club at Hudson Valley Community College brought him to Wall Street Friday to learn about investment.

“I love it,” he said of the inauguration. “I’m a long time supporter.” Hudson then pulled out his cellphone to show a reporter how he had tweeted a message of support to Donald Trump in 2014—and the man who is now our new president retweeted him.

Hudson is most excited about Trump’s promise to push through tax reform. “Tax cuts for individuals that make under $25,000 dollars and couples under $50,000 dollars will rejuvenate spending among the youth,” he said.

However for Hudson, the matter is personal. “I mean I look at my paycheck every week and it’s about 200, 225 dollars a week going in taxes and that adds up over 52 weeks,” he said. “I’m losing money because of it.” —Nadeem Shad

Worried about Health Care

The triangular park across from Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in Washington Heights was subdued during the inauguration ceremony. But many healthcare workers who wandered through it weren’t shy about expressing their concern over the new president’s promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

As she waited for a bus to take her home to Bronxwood, Shanice Thompson, 27, said she was wary of the new administration. She had just finished a shift as a patient care technician in the hospital. “Is he going to make changes that help us?” she asked. “Or is he going to do some cutbacks that affect people more than they’ve already been affected?”

Thompson said she was not terribly impressed with Obamacare but was worried what would happen to it during the next four years. “It’s something rather than nothing.”

Cory Cunningham, a 31-year-old mental health researcher and part-time psychotherapist who lives on the Upper West Side, was also worried about the future of healthcare. “If they repeal Obamacare, that could change coverage for my clients,” she said. “And there’s already a major mental health crisis in the city.”

Cunningham stood outside the hospital during the inauguration ceremony, not even looking at her phone. “I was very disappointed when Trump was elected,” she said, because she does not think he has enough relevant experience. “I hope he just keeps trying to keep getting attention, and lets lawmakers make decisions.”

Half a block south, Michael, a 34-year-old from Borough Park, Brooklyn who did not wish to give his last name, smoked a cigarette and sipped a Diet Coke outside the hospital as he waited for someone inside. He was not watching the inauguration, although he supported Trump. “I think he’s going to make America great again, to be honest with you,” Michael said.

“Of course there are things about him I don’t like, but he doesn’t have a personal agenda. He’s already rich. He’s already famous.” He stubbed out his cigarette. “America has been great to him, and now he wants to give back,” he said, and walked into the emergency room lobby.

— Josie Albertson-Grove

A Food Cart With a Surprise Inside

Somebody with a caustic sense of humor might try to come out with a joke about two immigrants—a Mexican woman and an Egyptian man—selling Halal food in front of Trump International Hotel at Columbus Circle. But it’s not a joke, and the Mexican woman, Yesenia, has been doing it for the last four years, from inside a typical New York food cart.

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During the cloudy, 43-degrees morning of inauguration day—with Donald Trump due to become the 45th president of the U.S. in less than an hour—she asks her customers, “¿Qué quieres, amigo?” The firm but soft manner of her tone leaves one wondering if she is demanding, rather than asking, for an answer. Young and self-assured, she emigrated to the U.S. eight years ago, and has been working on the corner of 59th street and Broadway, with her Egyptian coworkers, for half of that time. When asked about the peculiar conditions of her work in relation to Trump, she has a pragmatic answer. “I simply looked for a job and found this one,” she says.

A crowd of around 30 people is protesting close to her cart, in front of the tower. “Last night there were a lot more,” Yesinia says. “They were all over. Could hardly move.”

There are lapses when business is slow, and then suddenly a line forms—diverse clients, all cold and hungry: two white male police officers; a young African young man who rents bicycles; an old Asian lady wearing fashionable clothes. At some point, two short Mexican construction workers arrive and place an order. They have nametag stickers pasted in their hoodies that read “Trump International Hotel & Tower.”

As she delivers a gyro to a white male, she asks him if he knows whether Trump has already been sworn in. “Not yet. Hopefully never,” the man responds, and walks away, leaving Yesenia grinning.

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Disinterest and a Telling Gesture in Harlem

During the inauguration ceremony, patrons dining at Harlem Tavern, a bar and restaurant on 116th Street and Frederick Douglass Avenue, sat largely disinterested in Donald Trump’s first speech in his official presidential capacity.

Most guests ate at tables, with only three choosing to sit at the bar directly facing two large television sets tuned into CNN. Andrea Paolini, 22, a waitress at the tavern, felt the mood was somber. “It is something we have accepted, but not OK with,” she said. I think we are all just watching, waiting for him to fail.”

Some of the bartenders and customers frowned during Trump’s address, which emphasized combating “radical Islamic terrorism” and decried the loss of the wealth from the middle class “ripped from their homes and redistributed across the entire world.”

“I am scared of what will happen to the sense of safety that Muslims feel in this country,” said Caitlin St. Pierre, 27, a writer.

“I’m scared for funding for the National Endowment arts and social programs,” said Erica Saucedo, St. Pierre’s friend and a dancer and artist.

When Trump echoed one of his campaign slogans, “America First,” the two patrons at the bar gave Trump the middle finger. –Cale Amir Holmes

New Yorkers Take to Washington’s Streets 

Despite not having slept for 36 hours, Queens resident Karina Garcia, 31, said “I’m feeling good. I’m feeling fantastic.” She wore bright lipstick to the 2017 Inauguration—red as the stripe on the Mexican flag draped around her shoulders and the flower tucked behind her ear.

After spending Wednesday at work at a Latina women’s health organization, Garcia joined her husband and around 200 other New Yorkers from protest group the ANSWER Coalition at 1 a.m. They squeezed into four buses—some paying their way, others receiving help from donations—and descended upon the capital in the early hours of Thursday morning.

“Walking in here this morning, it felt like I was in the Hunger Games. All the blockades, the secret service, it’s unbelievable,” she said. “But I can’t imagine being anywhere else.”

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Other protestors fanned out across the Navy Memorial, behind a big stage bedecked with a checkerboard of yellow and white signs that read #InaugurateTheResistance. One by one, speakers took to the podium, flanked by a grunty PA system. Their voices echoed against the cold grey stone of the Archives Building across the road.

Snacking on sandwiches from an upscale French café on the corner, the crowd seemed content, despite  whisperings of wrongdoing at the checkpoints that was keeping other protesters from joining the throng. Mara Verheyden-Hillard, a lawyer from the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, spoke of ‘thousands’ stuck outside.

Not everyone seemed compelled by every speaker’s issue and placards sometimes directly contradicted one another. Some protesters expressed their support for the press, for instance, while others called for a new, better dawn of journalism. But the cheers reached their peak when there were calls for a revolution.

“Ten years from now,” Garcia said, “I believe we’ll be living in a better world. This kind of poverty, inequality, climate destruction… this can’t last forever. It’s just a matter of when.”

Paul Wilcox, a retired union chapter chair who lives in New York City, said the day was the start of something bigger. “It’s a new movement! You look around, you see black, Latino, white, gay, lesbian, men, women—all standing in solidarity.”

For Toya Mileno, 37, a Brazilian from the Bronx, a global movement meant starting small. “If we can change things in the U.S., struggles all over the world will be easier,” she said. “I’m here to help people take power for themselves.” —Natasha Frost

On the Bus

Many sleepy-eyed New Yorkers boarded the Megabus before the sun rose on the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration to head to Washington, D.C. They weren’t headed to the inauguration, but to participate in the Women’s March on Saturday. Most of those on the bunch weren’t even planning to watch the inauguration—after all, the bus was set to arrive in the nation’s capital at 10:30 a.m., which is well after anyone hoping to catch a close-up glimpse of the new U.S. president’s swearing-in ceremony could manage a spot.

Not every seat is taken on this particular ride. And as the bus made its way up to the U.S. Capitol, most passengers slept. A few women talked about their plans to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture today—they got a few coveted passes to the newly opened museum.

When the bus pulled into Union Station, the national mall was already flooded with thousands of people who had gathered to watch the inauguration. But Emily Rudisill, 28, wasn’t one of them. “I think I don’t need to see it. I know what’s going to happen,” she said. “I just think I won’t go near the Capitol.”

Rudisill has come all the way from San Francisco, by way of New York, for the Women’s March. “After how everything went…I felt like this was a big time to be even more politically active myself with a group of friends and just be a lot more outspoken and thoughtful about my actions,” she said.

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Rudisill has many fears about a Trump presidency, particularly because she works in public relations for the restaurant industry. She says that her clients will be affected by policy changes on everything from immigration to healthcare to minimum wage. Rudisill says she sees the women’s march as a response to all these issues. And although it has been criticized for not being inclusive enough of different genders and races, Rudisill said it is important for her to be in Washington, D.C. to participate in the event.

“There’s definitely been some controversy but…I think it’s important to be here,” she said. “I was talking to my boyfriend this morning and his younger sister is coming, his 67 year-old aunt is coming.”

Rudisill chose the message “Organize” for her sign, to signify her newfound commitment to activism after the presidential election.

“My friend’s says ‘fuck the patriarchy’” she said. “Mine’s a little more subdued.” –Courtney Vinopal

Buzzing with Excitement for Trump

The crowd quickly thinned after President Donald Trump delivered his first speech as the newest leader of the United States of America. Many onlookers who had attended previous inaugurations commented on the differences between them and this one—less enthusiasm, fewer attendees, and tons of protestors blocking the security gates.

But inside the inauguration at the National Mall, most people had traveled from all over the nation to witness this historical event. Those that lingered after President Trump’s “Americans first” centric speech were buzzing with excitement.

“I thought his speech was great, it sent a definite unifying message,” said Kathy Thompson, a Virginia native. “I voted for Trump because I want to see my kids prosper with a flourishing economy. All of my relatives are here with me today to witness this.”

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Thompson and her best friend, Donna Worth, agreed that they both welcomed immigrants but wanted reforms.

“We are here with a friend of ours who is an immigrant but she did so legally,” Thompson said. “We supported her throughout her entire process which is why we’re so optimistic about Trump’s immigration plans.”

Like Thompson, Worth found Trump’s speech to be touching. “I felt like when I first saw him speak long ago he came across as clever, like a person who is a doer and not a talker,” Worth said. “It feels like he cares about us. He calls us Americans and doesn’t treat us as if we’re deplorable.”

Worth said former President Barack Obama apologized too much on behalf of Americans, which is why she became a Trump supporter.

“I want to remember what it’s like to be a proud American again,” Worth added, who traveled from Florida to attend her first ever inauguration. –Alexandra Maria Bordas

The Angry and the Confrontational

President Trump’s inauguration Friday came to an end with more than 200 people arrested and several police officers injured in Washington D.C., according to MPD Interim Police Chief Peter Newsham. The arrests resulted from several small riots that broke out in the streets surrounding the National Mall, while Trump was sworn in office.

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The streets of Washington, D.C., had been militarized on January 20. As early as 5 a.m., tanks blocked many of the streets near the event and troops were placed on seemingly every block. The streets were quiet and desolate for the most part, however.

As the day progressed young adults with red caps started to march towards the National Mall to show support for the results of the election. And while the new president took the oath of office, protests broke out a few blocks away. Among the protestors were some rioters, leading to the eventual arrest of hundreds. The blocks around the National Mall got shut down as a way to prevent more people from joining. Protesters eventually found a way around and, by 3 p.m. hundreds of people gathered at Edward Murrow Park.

The violence soon escalated. Somebody lit a limousine on fire, resulting in clashes with the police, who used pepper spray against protestors as well as the journalists who were covering the event. More than six officers were injured, according to Newsham, and dozens of demonstrators suffered breathing difficulties due to the spray. —Adriana Louriero

Speaking Out at the Whitney

The mood at the Whitney Museum of American Art on January 20 was calm—sedate even. The line outside to get into the museum wasn’t terribly long—about a 10- to 15-minute wait—but it was unusual for a Friday morning. On inauguration day, the museum offered “pay-what-you-wish” admission all day to coincide with special programs related to the inauguration.

Front and center: “Speak Out on Inauguration Day.” The program, organized by a group called Occupy Museums, ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., let guests, artists, and activists take their turn at the mic to deliver a message about art or give a brief performance. Visitors flowed in and out of a 270-person capacity room. Occupy Museums started during the Occupy Wall Street protests to call on cultural institutions to help stop the spread of economic inequality.

Whitney-LineThe line to get in the room was long and without an estimated wait time. Ushers had a “one-for-one” policy for letting people in, so line dwellers could only hope for someone inside to leave. Organizers piped audio into the lobby, but it was hard to hear over the din of conversation.

A graffiti artist who works with light, Vicki DaSilva, came from Pennsylvania just for this event and proudly displayed a photo of the work she created: the word “Kompromat” written in glowing red light across an image of the White House.

Once inside the room, visitors listened to speakers, some performing, some declaring their commitment to art, many discussing the future of the National Endowment of the Arts—all next to the stage with a large banner reading: “Resistance Against Fascism is the Best Art.” —Quincey Trigillo

In the Chaos, Finding a Center

Bernie Fitzpatrick, a political science professor at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, CT, drove to New York with his partner Friday to spend inauguration day at The Rubin Museum of Art on 17th Street. The reason: to attend the museum’s weekly program dedicated to the theme “Face Your Fears” on this particular day.

He spent a long time, looking down at the circular staircase from the railing on fourth floor, near the Buddhist shrine room. His thoughts were punctuated by sighs.vignettevinyl

“The man’s an idiot. He has no brains to fulfill the duties of his office,” said the political science professor. “This is the center for Buddhist centering yourself. I think that is what I need, to find my center.”

He kept looking down at the circular staircase as he gained his poise. “I feel this is a quiet centering place for myself,” he said,  “and may be for the country too.”

The professor said that New York city is open today for folks like him to come and spend a quiet time in museum because Donald Trump is NOT here. He walked around the shrine room with his partner. They listened to the recorded sound of wind in the rocky Himalayan mountains. –Tenzin Sangmo

Let America Be America Again

As the new President echoed his promise to “Make America Great Again” on the national mall, the Brooklyn Museum dedicated inauguration day to a marathon reading of Langston Hughes’ poem, Let America Be America Today.

One after the other, guest readers, local artists, and friends of the museum read the poem in 30-minute shifts, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

According to Alicia Boome, the associate curator of public programming who organized the event, the idea was conceived last week after her colleague shared the poem on an internal email exchange.

“The museum’s leadership thought about closing the museum today to stand in solidarity with the artists,” Boome said. However, due to scheduled programming and field trips from local schools, the directors decided to keep the museum open and to host the reading.

The event opened with statements from an artist-activist, Queen GodIs, who stood at the podium behind two elementary school students, one holding a pitcher of water, the second a small potted plant. The artist expressed thanks to those who have passed away and she addressed them directly.

“We acknowledge that many of you have not lived to see the outcomes that you have worked so hard to generate, and we are humbled by that,” she said, asking the audience to shout out the names of passed individuals who they admire. “David Bowie!” “Nina Simone!”, and “Notorious B.I.G.!” echoed through the cavernous halls of the museum. At the sound of each name, the student holding the pitcher watered the plant.

Christopher Myers, a children’s author from Queens, talked about the importance of the written word for the United States. “This country was founded in language,” he began. “We’re always striving to be as good as what we write.” For Myers, Hughes’ poem represents the challenge of striving to achieve those ideals crafted by words.

As the guest readers finished, volunteers approached the podium to read the poem. Despite the passionate support for the event, Boome said she worries about the next four years. “I fear that people will remain complacent and accept the status quo,” she said.

As she said this, however, 30 attentive children sat behind her and listened to the stanza from Langston’s poem for the third consecutive time: “Let America be America again, Let it be the dream it used to be.” — Joe Hong

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