Lauri Lyons

Author. Photographer. Director. Publisher. Teacher.
Location: New York, New York
Nationality: Jamaican American
Biography: Lauri Lyons was born in the Bronx, New York and traveled globally with her military family. She earned a BFA in Media Arts from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. For many years Lauri worked as a Photo Editor for several national magazines... read on
Barack Obama and the American Dream
lauri lyons
Feb 4, 2010
The 2009 inauguration of President Barack Obama was not only a bold step forward for the United States, but also served as a point of reflection on the events that paved a long road to equality. The early 1960’s began a period of turbulent struggle for justice and equality for America’s citizens. The Civil Rights Movement demanded that the promise made by our country’s founding fathers become a reality for all of the nation’s people. In the face of change there was resistance. In the face of a non-violent movement for equality, there was violence that was executed with the use of attack dogs, fire hoses, and murder. It was a violent resistance that divided the nation and shocked the world.

In 1963 over 200,000 people mobilized for the March on Washington. The march was intended to demand equal job opportunities, but made history for Dr.Martin Luther King Jr’s mesmerizing and inspiring “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King’s declaration was more than a speech, it was a challenge for the American people to become larger than words. On July 2, 1964, change moved closer to reality. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act that outlawed racial segregation.

As with all cultural revolutions the first step is not the final step. Although Civil Rights were guaranteed on paper, change did not move fast enough to meet the needs of everyday life for the disenfranchised. The non-violent movement which was the catalyst for the Civil Rights Act evolved into the more militant Black Power Movement of the mid sixties.The Black Power ideology was most widely embodied by Malcolm X of the Nation of Islam and the Black Panther Party.  America as a whole became more politically militant and as a consequence suffered the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.

The past four decades have been a mixture of social growing pains and progress. We have overcome polarizing battles such as school busing, suburban ‘white flight’, and Affirmative Action. Ethnic minorities and women have become an integral part of Corporate America, elected office, higher education, and the media. Progress has not been all encompassing in its reach, but much has been gained. Even with that said, it should be no surprise to learn that most people never believed that a Black man or a member of any ethnic minority would become the President of the United States.

As a matter of fact, for many years African-Americans jokingly referred to Bill Clinton as the ‘First Black President’. It was equally unbelievable to witness Barack Obama win the Iowa Caucus last January, draw massive European crowds, secure the Democratic Nomination, and ultimately win the Presidential Election.

Upon entering the national consciousness in 2004, Barack Obama became an instant icon. The type of which is usually reserved for rock stars such as the Beatles. He is arguably the most commercialized elected figure in the world today or perhaps in history. His face has graced the cover of countless magazines and is also available as commemorative coins, t-shirts, buttons, plates and other paraphernalia. In the Sixties Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech was distributed as a popular vinyl record and became a staple in many households and libraries. Today, President Obama’s Election Night speech has been remixed with an R&B dance track and is sold on the streets as a CD. Two of the most popular images of Obama are the tri-color portraits by artist Shepard Fairey, which was recently the cover of Time magazine and Dwayne Rodgers “Black President” t-shirt which digitally morphs President Obama with the Nigerian singer / activist Fela Kuti.

While interviewing people about their view of Obama, I was struck by the high level of expectations being loaded onto one man’s shoulders. The common belief is that after an age of terrorism, natural disasters, war, and economic depression, Barack Obama is going to take care of everything and everyone. Of course people acknowledged such an agenda will take time, but still maintained that he will get all the jobs done over an eight year period. With all the positive media attention and the celebrity status, it seems one of the biggest challenges facing President Obama is something that President George W. Bush never had to contend with: the perception of perfection.

In 1995 it was debated whether or not the Million Man March, which was intended as a celebration of black men and unity, gathered one million people in Washington D.C. For the 2009 Inauguration of the first African-American President, there was no doubt about the size of the record breaking multi-ethnic crowd. The event was clearly a massive global affair that was described as a “sea of humanity”. The human outpouring of people and emotion at the inauguration begs the question: As a country, have we finally reached the mountain top as Dr. King envisioned 46 years ago?

With hope comes change and with change comes anxiety. America is now in the midst of uncharted waters which prevent us from turning back to our old ways and dares us to go forward into the unknown.  As President Obama asks Americans to collectively reach higher, Americans are already asking one another questions such as: Does the election of President Obama signal the end of White guilt regarding slavery, Jim Crow, and reparations? How does a generation of people who have dedicated their lives to the Movement politically maneuver in an Obama society? Are there potential ramifications when a member of a marginalized minority becomes the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth? These are questions which are up for debate and can only be answered by time and experience.

In the unfolding story of America in the 21st century, President Barack Obama has become something greater than himself. He has become the realization of a national dream.

Also by Lauri Lyons —

Events News

Lauri Lyons Teaches Social Justice Class for LACP

By Lauri Lyons — The Los Angeles Center of Photography presents 'Social Justice x The Media' .  Six ZOOM..
Events News

Lauri Lyons 2021 Howard Chapnick Grant Finalist

By Lauri Lyons — Dear Friends, I hope all is good with you. I am happy to share some good news with you. The W. Eugene Smith..
Events News

INVITATION: Join Me for Juneteenth in Savannah

By Lauri Lyons —    Dear Community, Happy Juneteenth! I hope all is good with you. This year I will be celebrating..
Events News

FLAG Exhibition in Minneapolis

By Lauri Lyons — Dear Friends,  I hope this email finds you well. An exhibition of my Flag series is on display at the..
Featured Film News Videos

Lauri Lyons Meets Rev. Robert Lee IV

By Lauri Lyons / Savannah, Georgia — Dear Community,  Lauri Lyons and Patt Gunn of the Center for Jubilee, Healing and Reconciliation are..
Events News

Virtual Class: Social Justice & Diversity in the Media

By Lauri Lyons / Virtual Remote —    Instructor : Lauri Lyons   Register: $246.00   Date Start: Tuesday, November 10,..

Slim Aarons: A Well Curated Life

By Lauri Lyons — Iconic photographer Slim Aarons was famous for documenting the good life. Now his daughter and former photo..

Soledad O'Brien Dispatches

By Lauri Lyons — TV journalist Soledad O’Brien has tirelessly crisscrossed the globe to report breaking news and..

Afro-Brazilian History, Beats, and Culture

By Lauri Lyons — For most people the idea of Black History month is relegated to the African-American experience in the..

Afropunk Takes Over the World

By Lauri Lyons — If you haven’t noticed, there is a cultural shift taking place in America, and across the globe. The..

Julian Lennon's Artistic Horizons

By Lauri Lyons — Julian Lennon is charting new artistic territories with his photography exhibition Horizons. Most noted as a..

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: A Dream in Progress

By Lauri Lyons — As a person born after the signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I was not a witness to the loud calls for..

South Africa's Five-Star Adventures

By Lauri Lyons — Since the success of the 2010 World Cup, tourism to South Africa has dramatically increased and for the..

Go Wild and Green in Costa Rica

By Lauri Lyons — For many years I have been hearing that Costa Rica is a great place to go on vacation. I also heard that the..

Toronto Rises as the New Capital of Cool

By Lauri Lyons — If your idea of Canada is dominated by maple syrup, hockey, flannel shirts or the G-20 Summit, it's time..

For the Huffington Post: The Armory Shows Contemporary Art in New York

By Lauri Lyons — Since 1913, The Armory Show Art Fair has been the preeminent international exhibition of modern art in the..

Women in Hip-Hop

By Lauri Lyons — In the context of popular culture the history of Hip-Hop has been recited and mythologized many times over...

Flag International: Global Perspectives on the American Flag

By Lauri Lyons — What is America? It is a challenge to singularly define America because the country reinvents itself on a..
Join us
For more access