June 27, 2015

Right after President Obama's powerful eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Don Lemon and Van Jones had a great discussion about what it meant to them personally and what it means to the larger African-American community.

Both were taken with how the President "stepped into his legacy," taking on race issues despite being the "racial piñata" for all these years. After noting that the President had declared himself "fearless" in the WTF podcast, they turned to some of their highlights.

Jones said he was most surprised by the President singing "Amazing Grace."

"He hit so many of the deep chords in the African-American community," Jones continued, noting that the organist was a first in a Presidential speech. (That was one of my favorite moments too.)

"He was minister-in-chief at a moment where ministry was needed," Jones observed. "But he didn't take the safe way out."

Lemon then asked Jones how he felt to watch Obama, as a black man. Jones answered, "I was proud and I was terrified. I was afraid that he was going too far...that he might offend or have some people misunderstand him."

"I still have so much trauma trying to protect the first Black President and you know what? He's free," Jones said. "I think all nine of the people who died would be proud of this speech."

Van Jones then uttered what all of us think and don't dare say. "This was a political assassination. And so many of us were afraid that Obama would be assassinated, that it would be Obama in a casket."

I wish I could say I put that fear in the past tense. Part of the reason I write here at C&L is to place my fears in a box by highlighting how much of the right's insanity is manufactured outrage to move their base their way. But it never, ever leaves my mind for very long that there are enough people out there and enough concerns about his Secret Service protection to worry even the calmest people out there.

"And so when you have a young black leader shot down, and you have the first Black President standing over his body, and he decides to actually tell his own truth, that is a powerful moment in our community."

It was a powerful moment, not only for the African-American community but also for those of us who stand with them, and with him. It was hugely powerful, and most importantly, it was a call to action.

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