Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Our president, President Obama

Standing in front of the Adam Clayton Powell building in Harlem at 6:30 pm, I thought about how it might feel to have a truly culturally-sophisticated, brilliant and sensible community organizer as president of the United States.
The fact that he is Black like me just makes the United States a cool place to live.
Black being who you are, not who people tell you you are, not a measurement of shade but just who you are - which follows you anywhere you go - from Ivy League situations to the corner turkey burger joint full of heroin addicts and people disabled in various other ways. Obama's father, if he is to be called an African-American, would have to be categorized as a non-native born African-American. Just as one would categorize my mother if one were to hyphenate her like that. It is different. Different does not mean better or worse; it just means that the perspectives have had to be shifted in enormous ways: lots of things require that the brain create new schemas - linguistic differences, cultural mores and taboos, relationships between family members, sense of individualism and privacy. The list goes on and on.
in the 1920s, my mother lived in a tiny hut with 9 brothers and sisters and her parents in the country in a country that was as foreign as any small African nation, although it was technically a part of the U.S.

It is cool, though - being many things and Black.

The U.S. is like that nerd who couldn't get a date for the prom and we gave the nerd a makeover, so the nerd is as cool as Coltrane and as unflappable as the most unflappable person you can think of - for me, that would be my cool Black Puerto Rican mother who said she was Black before it was cool for a Latino to admit to being of African descent. I am sure it was her spirit next to me amidst that crowd that poked me in the ribs when I wanted to cry because she wouldn't cry. I am sure it was her spirit who directed, Rachel, my film maker friend, from high school to find me, and I am sure it was her spirit shining through my misty eyes as the world got brighter and more beautiful. And I am sure it was her spirit who urged me to call my friend, Leslie, who had just left prison where she teaches yoga to inmates; she made a detour and met me.
I felt proud for all of us as we cheered and screamed and danced to the drummers who played through all the speeches and all the tallies. And how did it feel?
Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty!
I am free
at last!

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