Believe me I was excited. But I was even more curious at the euphoria of us. Street running and car cruising. Hanging out of building orifices of all sizes and screaming at the top of our lungs O-Bah-ma! O-Bah-ma! O-Bah-ma! I mean who did they think was running against John McCain? It’s not as if he came outta nowhere…or was an underfunded and overmatched underdog.
Yep. I was walking around with my sensible hat on. Looking all reasonable and logical. “What’s with all this Tom Foolery anyhoo…?”
And then it hits me as I watch Barack Obama’s first address as President-elect.
I sit down and slowly stop breathing. Like when you fall, stomach first, on a football…the trainers come over, grab the belt of your pants away from your diaphragm and say,
“Look at me and…breathe…slowly.”
I watched in amazement as a crowd pushed poor Grant Park in Chicago to its limits for human occupation.
Now, I’ve always been bothered by Obama’s speeches. Specifically, he never seems to finish them with that extra umph. You know the build and then final “hit ‘em right here…” He often steps on his button phrase, trying to talk over the excitement of the crowd, just to quiet them and then add two or three words that deflates the whole whammy. Twice…Twice I’ve seen him exploit the build of a speech.
And what was he doing at this moment?
I don’t know. I was wiping my eyes. Sitting in my living room. When he began to speak…when the crowd began to settle…when the words…the words began to take the shape of history…I wept.
Openly (albeit in my house) but openly.
FLASH BACK: A DAY IN THE LIFE OF VOTING
8am Nov. 4
My voting poll looks like a lil’ bit of small town America that you see only in Republican pamphlets about “real” America.
The difference is most of the voters are Black. We all know one another and voting is sometimes like going through a high school yearbook. I see some faces. The line is never long. Today, at 8:19am it’s a quarter of a way down the block.
Long enough to “be” about what it means.
It really is a neighborhood poll. Where meet and great politics is still very much in play. Where there aren’t many arguments but traditions carry on. Like a mother teaching her daughter how to vote (this is my favorite picture).
I got to take a picture of my ballot in my machine whilst I voted. Maybe it was corny but, all I could think of was the days when Blacks first got to vote after the civil war…if they could have, don’t you think they would’ve taken a picture of that ballot?
CHEWIN’ THE PHAT
We wait so long and hard for leaders. They are, it seems, extinct from our lands. Overwhelming numbers of Brotha’s in jail and even still, few are willing to follow women who make sense. And when they do surface they are immediately snatched up onto better economic, passionate, social or professional rungs. Or just to better company. Yet still, we hope. And when there is a glimmer we hope, in true contradiction, with great restraint. Progressing in a slightly schizophrenic gait from a crushing history of the realities of power. So often that we’ve come to rely on men who creak with aged solutions to problems in a language they no longer understand. Or we live through our dead. The ghosts of those whom we keep encased in cottage industries of posters and stickers and banners and bookmarks.
I Have a Dream.
Message to the Grass Roots.
Monologues. Memorized, packaged and resold to each new generation. Instilling just enough pride to show up when demagogues swoop in with cameras, plans and speeches. Speeches.
But it here, over coffee and rubber pancakes…the world rings anew.
This is a round table at McDonald’s. Around the corner from the order line, by some nestled tables and chairs, sat 4-6 elderly men (some came and went) who gave me a lesson I hadn’t had since I stopped going to the barber shop.
It’s an everyday gathering of old souls. Mostly to talk mess and bond like only old Black men can.
Clockwise from bottom left:
Walter Martin (green Sweater)
Pastor Jenniffer of New Guiding Light Baptist Church.
The conversation grows from their personal experiences and seeing what has come.
Here Dale Yarbury and Walter Martin engage in the “employee” or “ownership” debate that is about 100 or so years old itself.
Laughs and dents tend to lighten a testy challenge. It’s all civil and I was indeed blessed to have been a part of it.
They exchange stories. Some old and new. Good and Bad. Funny and not so. It was, it is a gathering of knowledge.
One that is especially needed for the right kind of patience on this Election Day.
I hear about another kind of gathering…Obama Supporters in Los Angeles…in Century City at the Plaza…
And here’s one of my problems with LA civics. It sucks. All the time. Every time. Anytime there’s a call for a gathering of the populi, LA sits it out and comes off like a barren wasteland. Unless it’s the Hollywood Christmas Parade or something like that which is seen on TV…wait a minute…that’s been canceled!
Like when the year 2000 came on New Years. Every major city around the world celebrated with a tremendous bang and display of the new millennium. They weren’t all over the top but done well. London, Paris, New York, Rio, Barcelona, Rome, Tokyo and in LA? It sucked. The big money cats either leave town or throw some exclusive shit that is meant to keep the rest of us out. And that’s what we had here. A celebration for the historical election of the first Black President who is super popular with all races in the Largest city in America whittled down to a celebration in a hotel.
Outside it was jammed with people trying to get into what the hell was going on.
While onlookers tried in vain to get in.
The weirdest trick of all is how the Fire Marshall was brought in to set up a “caution” line and stand there while a guy in a suit carrying a megaphone told everyone to leave.
Meanwhile, VIPs were being let in under the line…effectively turning the Firemen into badly dress LA club bouncers. It was messed up and exhibited exactly the kind of Hollywood elitism the Right talks about.
Still, some folk managed to have a ball…
And sell some shirts…
…and some big hands…
To these folk!
SPEAKING OF HAVING A BALL….
Then it was on to Inglewood…
When a team from LA gets national prominence the T-Shirt guys show up with about twelve different kind of t-shirt. It’s amazing how fast it happens and although they come with the “I’m a fan, you’re a fan” talk, we both know what it is…pure hard core capitalism!
That’s what Obama celebrations that cost are about to me. No disrespect it’s just that I understand the deal. I mean we’re in line to go and pay to party in celebration of Barack Obama’s election.
Still they were gonna party anyway so it might as well have something to do with the day…
WHERE IT WAS…
All things tallied, Leimert Park had the most proletarian celebration.
Spontaneously, people gathered there until the streets were full. College bound or in college.
Fellas from da’ shaw…old folks and new folk. Hung out with music playing and sounds bumpin’
Policeman watchin’ out but can’t help but smirk. Yeah Brotha…He’s President.
But it was all good. No violence just dancing and talking and gathering and feeling the vibe…
All under the same Police presence vibe.
Helicopters shine bright.
While folk still shop for Obama…everything!
And some even post up with pride and stand for snapshot straight outta a Junior High yearbook.
As pages have been added to this nation’s history, the best of men tend to have guided this nation through such storms so as to have been called “great”. But Lincoln was murdered for his stewardship and Kennedy was killed before his potential was realized.
Those of you who have read me here know that I have been an ardent supporter of Senator Pres.-elect Obama. I pray for no martyrdom here. We need no more ghosts. This is the real thing and will require much from us.
Black is a nice ingredient, but to be honest (and dare I say a tad less egocentric), we are in need of greatness not just racial pride. And on that tightrope for any man of color, President-elect Barack Obama has proven to be, potentially, the best for this job.
I know, I know my words seem far too measured. Like a distrustful malcontent. “What more do I want?” Right?
Well, we’ve debated and voted and cried and partied…what’s left?
Work. Our current situation (yes OUR) is that of a nation that cannot stall or reflect. It is bad and it’s gonna get worse sos we have to have the mindset to make it workout. To help one another. To provide moments in which each of us can move forward. I know you can hardly soak it all in and it all seems like a blur but we’ve gotta get on it so clam down, look at me and…breathe slowly.