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Berkeley Greets Inauguration with Poetry, Protests By JAKOB SCHILLER

Friday January 21, 2005

A certain quiet seemed to gather over Berkeley on Thursday morning. As President Bush was inaugurated for his second term, it seemed many in Berkeley could only sit and watch in displeasure. 

The same was not true for a group of protesters who gathered at the Downtown Berkeley BART station. Armed with the poem, “Let America Be America Again,” by Langston Hughes, those gathered at the BART read the poem again and again, played music and read their own work and that of others.  

“We are listening to dea d language from D.C.,” said Al Young, a Berkeley poet and author. “I know what Hughes meant when he said, ‘Let America Be America Again.’” 

“O, let America be America again— 

The land that never has been yet— 

And yet must be—the land where every man is f ree. 

The land that’s mine—the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME— 

Who made America, 

Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, 

Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,  

Must bring back our mighty dream again.”  

The crowd, a mix of the yo ung and old, included several City Council members, the mayor and Ishmael Reed, the Oakland author and old friend of Hughes.  

Bill Trampleasure, a Berkeley resident, carried his United Nations flag and wore an American flag shirt, he explained, to reclai m the symbol. 

“When a nation loves itself more than the earth it shared with everyone, it’s trouble, war and destruction,” he said. 

Near the end of the event, Yaljfir Kafei, a.k.a Sleepee Bone Messiah, a 22-year-old hip-hop artist from Oakland, took the stage to recite a song called, “Breakin’ Away.” Raising his fists, and almost shouting into the mike, Kafei told a story about the world he knows as a young man. 

“It’s important to be here today because this country is built on blood and war, people are still eating unhealthy food, and living in ghettos,” he said. “It makes me sick to my stomach.”  

Earlier in the morning, Not In Our Name draped a large banner protesting the inauguration from the pedestrian bridge over Interstate-80 near the marina, slo wing early commute traffic along the highway.›