By David Carty– 1/20/09

The
concept of race was a talking point through Barack Obama’s run to
Presidential office and Reverend Joseph Lowery, a civil rights pioneer,
was not about to leave it out of Inauguration Day.

When the 87
year-old Lowry delivered the benediction at Barack Obama’s Presidential
Inauguration, he quoted from the annals of African-American history and
offered a shining viewpoint on the future of equality in the United
States.

Lowery opened the benediction with the third verse of
“Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as “The Negro National Anthem,”
a James Weldon Johnson poem-turned-song written at the turn of the 20th
century. The song became an anthem for equality during the Civil Rights
movement, sometimes being sung after “The Star Spangled Banner.”

“God
of our weary years, God of our silent tears, thou who has brought us
thus far along the way,” the poem began, as did Lowery, and finished
with “Shadowed beneath thy hand may we forever stand — true to thee, O
God, and true to our native land.”

Lowery asked for
blessings for the Obama family and guidance in what he coined the
“complex arena of human relations.”

The
most notable part of the benediction was its conclusion which played
off the theme of color in what he called a “new beginning.” “We ask you
to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back,
when brown can stick around,” Lowery said, interrupted by the laughter
of the remaining crowd, the newly-elected President included. He
continued to bring the house down with “when yellow will be mellow,”
and “when the red man can get ahead, man” before ending with a more
pointed reference “and when white will embrace what is right.”

His
last cry united the crowd in prayer “Let all those who do justice and
love mercy say amen,” he said, with the crowd responding in kind.

Three
years ago Lowery spoke at Coretta Scott King’s funeral, with mixed
response due to some politically charged comments. The NCAAP has also
called him the “dean of the civil rights movement” and has honored him
with a Lifetime Achievement Award.