Pittsburgh’s resistance: A celebration of Obama and the ‘People’s Inauguration’ as President Trump is sworn in

“Hope means things will get better,” Nisha Gupta said.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Updated, 10:58 a.m. Jan 23

As newly sworn-in President Donald Trump told Americans that the country will “start winning again, winning like never before,” Pittsburghers celebrated Barack Obama’s legacy, “inaugurated” themselves to continue to stand up for civil rights and promised to remain hopeful.

Noon, August Wilson Center

Sala Udin at the August Wilson Center.

Sala Udin at the August Wilson Center.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

A photo of the smiling former first family filled a screen behind a piano, on which Geri Allen, director of jazz studies at the University of Pittsburgh, played a tribute to Obama.

The Inauguration Day Alternative event held in the August Wilson Center auditorium and timed to coincide with the swearing in of Trump, aimed to celebrate the country’s first black president, according to Sala Udin, an event organizer.

“We’ve been in difficult times before, much worse times [than now],” Udin said, adding that Obama leaves “inspiration on what we have to do going forward.”

The former city council member and current school board candidate was recently pardoned by Obama.

Rev. Dr. William H. Curtis of Mt. Ararat Baptist Church talked to about 200 attendees about Obama’s accomplishments from healthcare to the economy. But he also spoke about Obama’s character through a presidency that was respectful of other traditions and had “no scandals.”

“We owe thanks to this president for having one of the strongest characters we’ve seen come from that office,” Curtis said.

Members of the audience then spoke about their admiration of Obama and what they planned to do next. Many echoed Curtis’s praise of Obama’s character.

Nisha Gupta, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology at Duquesne University, said she felt lost before Obama came into office. But he inspired her and gave her hope. And she said she’s going to keep that hope.

“Hope means things will get better,” she told The Incline after the event.

Several speakers also stressed the importance of education and how children must learn about the political system. David Jones told the crowd that it wasn’t until law school at Duquesne that he understood voting and the political system. Before that, he said he was voting with no education and that shouldn’t happen.

Jeff Young, a motivational speaker from Uniontown, shared an original spoken word poem. He said he wrote it following the election because everyone was so discouraged, and he wanted to encourage and inspire kids to believe in themselves, no matter who is president.

“I refuse to be dejected, because this man got elected,” he said.

Young.lungs.motivation / YouTube

Noon, Freedom Corner

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

At the same time, a People’s Inauguration was held at Freedom Corner, where attendees pledged to keep working to expand civil rights and justice during Trump’s presidency.

“Despite what you may be feeling, we are here today because it is our time to inaugurate ourselves,” Glenn Grayson, an organizer with One Pennsylvania, told the crowd.

He said that immigration rights, as well as women’s rights and more were already under attack before the election. “We must do something. Learn something Get involved. I ask you today to inaugurate yourself.”

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

An attendee at the August Wilson center asked Udin why those two Pittsburgh events were held at the same time. He responded by saying that communication is more important than ever going forward, and everyone needs to do the best they can to collaborate, but sometimes there will be two things scheduled at once.

Friday afternoon, Pitt Campus

About a dozen protesters were escorted by Pittsburgh and University police.