This is a column dedicated to “pride”-American pride in a candidate who offered a message that is as American as apple pie, a candidate who told us that there were no Red States of America or Blue States of America. Rather, we are the United States of America. A candidate who has transcended racial politics so much that he made all of us feel good about politics, and people joined from all walks of life under the bandwagon of “Obama ’08”.
I first met Barack Obama while volunteering for WVON 1690AM radio. I was seated on the floor doing something when he walked into Kennedy-King College’s lunchroom. As he entered, Melody Spann-Cooper the CEO of WVON warmly greeted him. When she saw me seated in the corner, she walked him over and introduced him to me. She told him I was from the West Side and someone he should know. That brief encounter will forever be my most precious memory of having met a president when he was just an average citizen and before he became a mega-media political star.
Now as I write this column early in the morning of Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2008, before the election results have come in, all I feel is pride for a man who built a campaign machine so well organized and coordinated that for years to come it will be the model for all others to follow. A man whose face and name have taken on near mythical proportions as his image became a fashion statement, worn by both young and old throughout the black community.
I had heard news reports on TV about the lines forming at some polling places that were already nearly a block long. I early-voted this year and wondered if my regular polling place would have a long line of voters as well. So I walked around the corner at 6:05 a.m., and the line was already out the door and down the street. In an era where we are often dismissive of the political process, people were happy to stand in line bright and early to make history.
I proclaimed back in May of this year that Senator Obama would become the next president of the United States. But to see it actually come to fruition is more powerful than any words I can ever write. I, a child of the Civil Rights Movement, who grew up seeing it and then later becoming a recipient of it, never imagined I would live to see the day that this country would begin to embrace the idea of a change to the status quo as it applies to the presidency.
Part of the reason is that as a community, young black people are forever given the speech which, on the positive side, is meant to prepare us for our eventual collision with racism but also has the effect of giving us a “No, we can’t” mentality. That mindset has contributed to many people not going for the gusto when it comes to anything they want to do in their lives. So having watched Barack Obama campaign and begin to win over the minds and hearts of all of America has been a reality lesson like no other.
Early on, Obama said that if he lost the election, he didn’t feel race would play as large a role as many in the black community would believe. Many blacks on talk radio took issue with his comment. But Barack proved them wrong.
As the black community moves on with this final frontier boundary coup, let us as a community take heed that the Obama victory was the result of hard work, a first-class education and the ability to dust off what people tried to sling at him while keeping his eyes focused on the prize.