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Since its inception in 1885, Presidents’ Day was viewed as a simple observance to recognize the men who served as commander-in-chief. However, this year, the holiday was full of controversy as protesters nationwide flooded the streets to voice their displeasure over Donald Trump’s residency in the White House.

While the hashtag “Not My President” was the rallying cry for the demonstrations, in Atlanta, a new social media moniker was added to the vernacular – Barack Obama Day.

At Morehouse College, the newly-named day in honor of the first African American president featured panels breaking down the highs and lows of his eight years in the Oval Office. The subject matter included the Affordable Care Act, economics, the impact of first lady Michelle Obama along with the president’s influence on pop culture and black manhood. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson capped off the on-campus festivities with a riveting speech on the former president.

Dyson, who among his many works, authored The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, spoke candidly on his administration calling him “flawed and yet spectacular.”

Fully loaded with concrete evidence, Dyson provided equal praise and criticism. He stated President Obama “had an idea that no one else before him could carry to term” by successfully being the first black to serve as the leader of the strongest nation in the world.

He also kept things in perspective by acknowledging how the acts of Martin Luther King paved the way to produce an Obama, but what Obama did will never produce a King because of the differing eras.

Dyson addressed the issues of police brutality and the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., drawing parallels of how a rise in black tragedies strategically occurred under Obama’s watch.

He closed saying: “Despite what I say here today, and despite any negative thing or criticism that might be forwarded against him, the power and beauty of his testimony will not be diminished because of them and in many ways, rightfully so.”

From there, the festivities shifted scenes to The Gathering Spot for another debate featuring filmmaker Stanley Nelson, media attorney and journalist Lisa Bonner, author Mychal Denzel Smith along with professors Greg Carr and David Wall Rice. CNN contributor and Morehouse professor Marc Lamont Hill served as moderator.

Each panelist, all of whom graduated from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, provided commentary on the cultural significance of HBCUs past, present and future along with encouraging alumni to support their schools financially.

The evening concluded with the crowd watching of a preview of Nelson’s latest project, Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities. This documentary, which is set to debut on PBS in January 2018, recently received high reviews at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Tonight’s event was spectacular,” said Nelson. “The only place we’ve shown the film was at Sundance, which is a totally different crowd. Here, you had a young, black professional crowd. It was a totally different experience to see it with them. The fact that they liked the film meant a lot to me.”

The activities for Barack Obama Day were the brainchild of Jamilah Lemieux.

“I’m proud how everything turned out. I think we were able to provide impactful programming for students of the AUC and for other members of the community. To bring together the likes of a Marc Lamont Hill, a Michael Eric Dyson, a David Wall Rice and a Rembert Browne on an HBCU campus to talk about the nation’s first black president is not an honor I take lightly,” said Lemieux, vice president of news and men’s programming at Interactive One and hostess for the daylong ceremony. “I’m very fortunate I was in a position to access these people. I think it’s important to brainstorm ways to bring our best and brightest speakers in the black spaces.”

Obama Day launches at Morehouse on Presidents’ Day, Dr. Dyson Keynotes was originally published on newpittsburghcourieronline.com

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