Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dreams from My Fathers and Mothers

I am so disappointed. I missed Bill Clinton's speech last night and I heard that it was good. I had no doubt that it would be because quite frankly, Bill Clinton is always "pimpin' ain't dead" when he's speechifying. I suppose I will have to avail myself of YouTube.

What I did not miss was the historic moment of the first African American, Barack Obama, being officially nominated for President of the United States by the Democratic party. As CNN panned the crowd after Hillary moved that he be nominated by acclamation, I saw the faces of the people, particularly the Black people, and I felt it. I saw some men about to cry, and I felt it. I thought about what this moment meant, and I felt it. Just think: Black people primarily came here enslaved--shackled, hunted, dehumanized. I am currently reading Song Yet Sung, a novel about an enslaved woman who is running away on the Maryland coast so I am daily being plunged into that world of servitude and violence. Where people have to be duplicitous just to have some sense of sanity. Where people cannot be sure if their children will be with them the next day and they cannot fall in love with anyone for fear that it will cause them to maintain an unbreakable link to slavery. Where people have no choice or control in their own lives. This is a large part of our beginnings in America. And now, now we have a Black man, chosen by people of all races, as a viable candidate for president. Who could have ever imagined that a people who weren't even allowed to read would one day have one of its own chosen to possibly be president?

As I watched the crowd, I thought about Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. King and all the other people who gave their lives to the struggle for equality. I thought of how proud they would be if they could see us now. Fighters like Richard Wright who talked about being beaten up by White co-workers just because he wanted to learn more about the optical business (something his boss said he wanted him to do). Or fighters like Frederick Douglass who witnessed the daily despair of forced servitude and beatings and who heard the lonely songs of the enslaved. Fighters like Merlie Evers-Williams and Mamie Till who, in addition to waging their own battles for freedom, had to watch their loved ones go down in the fight. They would know that it wasn't all in vain.

I am not going back on what I have said in the past. I don't think that Obama will cure all that ails us. I don't even believe this means now every Black child can realistically dream of being the president. But I'm feeling the import of this moment. And that's enough for me this morning.

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