I am replacing my post about Election Night with an email I sent to my friend Bahati Ansari who lives in Arizona now but for years did so much good work in Eugene for racial justice, healing and for enpowering youth. Bahati wrote me her thoughts about the election of President Elect Barack Obama this morning. Wow. I love saying that. President Barack Obama. I wrote her back and decided to replace my original post election blog with this because Bahati and I did a lot together, were sisters, still are. Check out her blog on blogspot.
I wrote that for me when I saw Jesse Jackson's tears fall, that moment encapsulated the whole Presidential ictory for me, what it meant. At (our first ever) election night party, we were all rivited on the tv screen filled with Americans -- the whole jubilant mix -- all the young people, joined with all the African American voters, grandmas, kids, and their good prayers, people of all backgrounds celebrating, weeping, laughing and screaming at the same time -- everyone celebrating their rejection of the McClain Palin strategy or racializing the election, rejected the slave legacy of fear and division -- and having voted their own pocketbooks, personal history, their own commitments they raised up an exceptional leader, a Black man with an African name, born in Africa, raised in Pacific Asia, educated in Hawaii and Chicago, graduated from lessons learned in the halls of Harvard and the streets and community centers and Black churches of Chicago. "WE DID IT!!" they shouted, and we in the living room in front of the tv shouted. Our loud yells must have rocked our neighborhood. "We did it!!" And in doing so America elected the most intelligent, most broadly prepared American leader in history who has shown himself to be cool under all pressure, forgiving with goal firmly in mind, well grounded, and a man who is a good father and husband; a man of his words; a man of decisive well thought action. Who could have believed Americans of all kinds could do this? No pundits could. But we always hoped that we could, didn't we Bahati. That's what our generation hoped. "Si se puede!" And we took that justice attitude to our work whatever it might be, raised our kids by it day after day.
When I saw Jackson's tears fall, (and I am not alone because when the screen filled with his worn and beautiful face, we all responded to make that a sacred moment for this particular man who carried our vision of America to the mountain top), I knew he was a man who witnessed so much and it must have all come back, the sacrifice it took to be there at that moment -- from young men like Emmett Till and his brave mother who took the criticisms to display what race hatred did to her beautiful son to Dr. King, Malcolm X and all the martyrs for justice and freedom. Their blood was spilled for the soul of American, not just for their own people, although that would have been big enough. The Reverend Jackson must have thought of all the struggles of his people which included your struggle, Bahati. And he must have thought of his own on behalf of all of us. All that struggle and sacrifice I hope Barack Obama carries every day in his heart because it will be what gives him the strength to be a remarkable president in a nation who has become an Empire by compromising all its truest ideals for the siren's call. Today we are glutted and face Nero's demise unless we make that change.
I don't know how you felt but I felt the solid door slam shut between us and our President, shut with a bang as he was escorted into the inner sanctum Wednesday morning after Election Night. But I will pray for him that the road he walked through his campaign is so solid it cannot just disappear when he enters into the Presidency. And even if it does, I will still pray for him and Michelle Obama and their two daughters. I started praying for him and the Obama family two years ago when people couldn't mention his bid for the presidency without talking about their fears for his life. I would "hon sen" it away and say loudly "don't say that! Don't even think it! Our words are stronger than you know. When you feel that just push it away and PRAY for him." I'm sure people would think, "geeeez. calm down. what's the matter with you?" I know this because they would answer, " all I'm saying is . ." and say it again, and I'd say it louder, "Stop! Just pray for him when you think that," waving away their words as if they were flies around my head. It would be comical if it weren't so serious.
I prayed at the sacred spring this August. The campaign was very ugly by then. I just prayed for Obama and his family hard. I also prayed for our country that we could see what was the truth. That the veils would drop from everyone's eyes and that everyone could see the truth. That everyone's hearts would be touched so they can feel the truth. That our country could have a good leader who would join us to take care of the earth. That our country would have a leader who cared about the elderly and the children like the Winnemem leaders and all the traditionals do.
So when McCain said "that One" I sucked in air and knew that everyone must have seen McCain unmasked, and that it would be abundantly clear that for him, this was an election about RACE and America had the chance to get their mallet and WHACK down Jim Crowe's ugly head peeking out of the hole with their vote right in front of the world. BAM! (I wrote another blog about whack a mole and Mom's historic vote). I couldn't wait for that mail-in ballot because I had my mallet and was ready! Give me that ballot now! If McCain Palin wanted to make this a black white thing, if they wanted to take us back to the old dayz, fine. I thought, "well my prayers are answered, and I guess we'll find out what America is about." I called it "the big bachi." In another blog I wrote that if this country voted for McCain, there would be a signficant blow to this sytem at the core of the empire and well, that's the way she goes.
I thought about my prayers being answered again when the stock market and banks tanked. I didn't pray for disaster but this brought such clarity to the Presidential campaign in every home across America. Could Americans really afford to hang on to the slave legacy of division and fear this time. I know what McCain Palin represented by their "good America" language. It was SEGREGATED America which grew fat on the backs of slave labor. It was us against them. It was rich and poor. Have and have nots. It was a system which depended many live on the brink, and work hard for very little to give a few unimaginable wealth. So now that every American's security was at stake where we could really feel it, now that some have even even lost their homes, pension, jobs, now that disaster shadowed every doorway, whose hand will we grasp to lift us out? What lay in the American heart? Fear the slave master must have felt? Fear that those duped to hold up a slave system felt? Or the determination to take care of one's family and home. Talk about basic.
So today, I am thankful for every Black person whose every day struggle with the evil legacy, for every immigrant who labored hard under horrific conditions and were reviled for their differences which should have been embraced, (like my own family) for every parent and teacher who taught the youth not to fear and hate, for every soldier for justice, every martyr for freedom, and those who struggle for justice even today. I am thankful for all the young people who raised up this exceptional leader with their techno=movement of hope unfettered by Washington politics and pundits, and I am thankful to Jesse Jackson because he is still the Presidential candidate who carried our vision of America to Washington and paved the way for a centrist African American presidential candidate who showed the world -- we need only see the crowd's jubilation from shore to shore -- America was MORE than ready for this historic presidency -- stupid pundits. From the looks of the crowds all over America and the world, we were bursting for the chance. I am thankful to see America for this small moment and know what I saw was a national choice to let go of what McCain Palin stood for, grab on to the firm hand of Barack Obama and LIFT OURSELVES UP "from the mud of ignorance" (to allude to Maya Angelou's poem "Good Morning." written for Clinton's inaugaral but meant for all of us beyond that day).
So now I'm still watching the tv and all the pundits and politicians are saying Obama is being smart and going for the center. The center is white, mostly-- and Indians especially those not on the federally recognized list (what a concept) for sure are not in the center. Brown immigrants are not in the center. Jesse Jackson's and many of our vision for our country is not in the center. But I'll settle for an Obama presidency for the next eight years and just enjoy that America's face to the world is intelligent, dignified, well grounded, ethical and African and the FIRST LADY AND CHILDREN in that big ol' White House, will be an African woman and children growing up into strong, smart women themselves, right before the world's eyes. I'M SO PROUD!!
A news reporter so young she must have been Maki's age when Jesse ran asked Jesse Jackson "do you think Obama won because he didn't make race an issue?" I grumbled under my breath. I could catch what she meant and I know it came from zero research, just quoting some stupid quick remark by a pundit. I remember Jackson's campaign. I lived through it. It was about hope, about change, about all Americans. It was not that different from Obama. Its difference probably was you really knew Jesse got it from the gate, our stories. It was not Jesse Jackson who made race an issue in the Presidential campaign. All he had to do was walk into the room and all the pundits and politicians could see was race. His message, though, was so powerful, the media could not help but report it. In spite of the power of his vision, our generation could not deliver Jesse to the White House. There was no youth movement and technology so accessible to the grassroots. There was still work to be done, step by step by step. To have followed Jesse and lived under the Bush regime, to watch elections be stolen, politicians bilking the American people with No Shame because they believed they were the law . . . well, it hasn't been easy. And it was so long ago, the Jackson campaign which brought together Americans with such hope. Keep hope alive, he had said. It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy to even keep the memory alive, apparently, with such a question coming from this young reporter.
Jesse's answer, as always, was perfect. He shook his head and said it's two different things. You needed the people who came before and who brought the walls down to make the path for the others to walk. As always, Jesse Jackson painted with one stroke. The generations who met that huge wall with the kind of courage which brought it tumbling down, formed that first rocky path for the generations who stumbled along that path with every breath of their hard life, getting up over and over again, wearing the stones smooth enough so that this precious new generation could walk on it as it was their right and become what is their due. Anyway, Jesse's tears brought it together for me, that night, and with his tears in mind, I keep the hope that President Obama will continue to find that path smoothed over by such sacrifice and struggle through the confusion "at the top" and keep walking it with all his great gifts of intelligence, dignity, cool headedness carrying with him many people who loved him and took care of him and infuenced him along the way. I hope his ears keep tuned to the stories which inspired his campaign, centrist they will not be, and be inspired and enboldened to such greatness that all of us will be left breathless by his Presidency as we were the night of America's sweet, sweet victory.
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