As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice president-elect Kamala Harris continue to staff their incoming administration, plans are underway for the nation’s 59th inauguration. 

The inaugural ceremonies are slated to take place on January 20, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol. In addition to Biden taking the presidential oath of office, Harris will make history as the first woman and first Black and South Asian American elected to the second highest office in the land. 

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) 2021 is a non-profit organization and separate entity from the Biden-Harris transition team, charged with planning and executing activities surrounding the inauguration. This week, PIC announced the chair and co-chairs for the Inauguration; the committee includes a number of African American officials. 

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) will chair the committee. Co-chairs include Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE) and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA). They will be joined by co-chairs, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

“Kamala and I are honored and grateful to these leaders for joining our inaugural committee as co-chairs and helping to organize a safe inauguration for all Americans. These leaders reflect the strength, spirit, and diversity of America and have always held a steadfast commitment to restoring the soul of the nation, building back the middle class, and unifying the country,” said President-elect Biden in a statement. “We are proud of their support and know they will help plan an inauguration that will reflect our nation’s shared values.” 

Clyburn is the House Majority Whip whose endorsement of Biden in the South Carolina primary is credited with revitalizing the former vice-president’s campaign. In a statement Clyburn said, “this will be one of the most important inaugurations in America’s history. …The peaceful transfer of power surrounding the inauguration is a bedrock of American democracy that represents our nation’s highest ideals.”

Delaware Congresswoman, Blunt Rochester, who endorsed Biden early on and served on the committee that helped select his running mate, noted: “Delaware sent Joe Biden to the Senate 48 years ago and now America is sending him to the White House.”

“As our country faces significant challenges, I know this inauguration will reflect President-elect Biden’s profound empathy for others, commitment to uniting the country, and relentless optimism for our future,” she said in a statement.  

Richmond, who was recently named Senior Advisor to the President, and Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, called the inauguration role a “deep honor.” “While this year’s inaugural events will look different, we are going to keep everybody safe and empower Americans all across the country to celebrate this historic moment,” he said in a statement. 

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Back in October, the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies (JCCIC)--the body that has been responsible for planning and executing inaugurations dating back to 1901– announced the theme for the event, “Our Determined Democracy: Forging a More Perfect Union.” The ceremonies have an approved budget of at least $1.5 million dollars, officials indicated. 

Traditionally, inauguration tickets are released by the JCCIC to members of Congress ahead of the inauguration in January; the offices of each House and Senate member are then responsible for distributing their allotment of tickets to their constituents. There has not yet been official word as to how this will play out in 2021, given the pandemic.

Officials at Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, told ESSENCE they have seen increased web traffic, phone calls and inquiries from visitors wanting to experience the inauguration. 

“Historically, inauguration is a huge economic engine for Washington, D.C. during what is typically a slower period for the city. How the 59th Presidential Inauguration can be experienced by visitors to Washington, D.C. will be based on the latest safety and health messaging from the city,” said Robin A. McClain, senior vice president of marketing and communications at Destination DC.  

The 2021 inauguration experience heavily depends on what people are able to do in the city based on the coronavirus pandemic. District officials have asked visitors to test for COVID-19 within 72 hours of traveling to D.C., and remain home if they test positive. If visitors plan on spending longer than 3 days in the city, they are asked to test again while in town. Local businesses may enforce requests for proof of a negative test at their own discretion. 

While official plans are still underway, McClain said, potential visitors can stay updated and learn details about how to celebrate inauguration virtually and in person (including where to stay, dine, and the latest status of museums and attractions) through the Destination DC website www.washington.org.

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