Linda McDonald-Carter, an attorney and history professor at Essex County College in Newark, NJ invited her class to witness history in the city’s Society Hill Club House. Friends, community, professor and students enjoyed a continental spread while reflecting on the historic and personal value of the Barak Obama Presidential Inauguration. There are many reasons to celebrate this day of change, but for this community an additional reason is almost a century old.
As if the first Black President of the United States of America isn’t historic enough, the Society Hill attendees were in for another fantastic treat. Assembled in the room, were some of Newark’s eldest citizens, one of whom celebrated a 97th birthday. Born January 20, 1912 Mrs. Mountain was overjoyed by the notion of a President of color. “I never dreamed that I’d see this day, I am so happy that we have a colored president. This is history. It’s my 97th birthday and I am so happy that I’ve lived to see it.”
In 1919 Mrs. Fountain began her working career as a sharecropper in Baskerville, Virginia. Years later, in 1937, she moved to Newark, NJ married, bought a home and started a locksmith business with her husband on Howard Street. A lot has changed since Mountains entrepreneurial days in Newark’s, Central Ward. She cites the culture, politics, businesses, but most importantly, she believes that there is great opportunity for youth to surmount adversity. In her view, if Newark’s men are equipped with the right tools, they can bring Newark to a place of glory. “I think these boys should put on a shirt and pants, cut their hair and look like men,” says Mountain, “there are many schools for them to go to today…so many opportunities. All they need to do is go to school and be somebody.”
From ‘I have a Dream’ to ‘Choose a Better History’ Mrs. Mountain has witnessed history. “History is my heart,” comments Carter, “and Mrs. Mountain is living history.” Mrs. Mountain’s life reflects the diverse story that defines Newark and the country. As a veteran to love, adversity and hope, her story is President Obama’s ‘idealism’ incarnate.
The inauguration of Barack Obama is a new chapter in American history. It is not only the Dream becoming a reality, but a catalyst for significant change. Hope is the mechanism that has inspired a uniformed approach to reformed life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.