Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My son the president

I woke up this morning. I woke up my five-year-old son; got him fed and ready for school. As we moved about the house, I casually as possible mentioned that Barack Obama would be the next president of the United States. He was excited - primarily because he claimed he had called it. We walked quietly to the corner to meet his school bus. I felt like I should say something poignant to him, but I could think of nothing. I could only squeeze his hand a little tighter than usual.

I had not expected anything to look different this morning, and of course nothing did. The streets in my development were quiet, a few school children were walking to meet friends, a few cars were driving out of their garages, and there was evidence that garbage trucks had passed by a few moments earlier. But I certainly felt different. I realized that the little American-born boy walking beside me will grow up with a different view of the world than the generation of Americans before him. He will grow up much like his parents did in Jamaica - not seeing any limits to his potential, or seeing the color of his skin as anything but biology.

I have sense enough to know that the election of my choice for president does not automatically improve the economy, end the war in Iraq, provide affordable and comprehensive healthcare to every one that needs it, or give every child access to their full potential. I know that the election of the country's first black president, while monumental, will not immediately erase the history or presence of racism. I voted for Senator Obama because I believe in his abilities and see sense in his plans for the country; but I know the country is in a crisis and it will be an uphill battle to right all that is wrong. President-Elect Obama himself said that correcting the country's course may take more than a year, or even a term.

While we wait for the fiscal improvements to the country, I am overjoyed at the steps we have made as a nation. My toddler boys will come to believe that nothing is out of their reach. For that I am grateful. At the end of President Obama's first term in office they will be 8 and 9 years old. They may never know that there was ever a question that a black man could be president. For that I am elated. Now their racial heritage of kings and queens, engineers of the pyramids of Egypt and the beginning of all mankind will not seem so far removed. For that I am proud.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And now we wait...

I, great fan of the snooze button, did not need an alarm this morning. My polling place opened at 6 a.m. and I wanted to queue up before the doors opened. After I set out clothes and lunch for the boys and wrote a note for my husband, I set off with a bag packed with magazines, crossword puzzle books and my iPod. I didn't know how long I would have to wait and I wanted to be prepared for as many hours as it could take.

I was out the door at 5:44 and was at the Deer Village Club House three minutes later. I was 10th in line and felt a twinge of disappointment that I would have no long line-long wait story to tell. By 6:05 my task was done - not withstanding my podunk polling place's single voting machine and the four little old ladies running the show.

As I walked out of the building there was to be no anti-climax, no let down - as is often the case after a big build up. Instead, I felt a soaring exhilaration. It is a remarkable feeling to realize that (regardless of outcome) I have been a part of history; not an observer, but an active participant. One day - maybe as I help my sons do their history homework - I will be able to tell them that I had believed in Barack Obama. I will be able to to tell them how I voted for him and all I did so that others would too.

When I spoke to my cousin in Orlando this morning she was moved to tears by the significance of the day; so was my anglo girlfriend in Coconut Grove. I hear my school mate from high school has been an ardent Obama campaigner, traveling as a foot soldier around the country. Another Jamaican and prominent Miami lawyer has been part of the groundswell in Florida - rallying support and registering new voters in remarkable numbers - that may deliver the state for Obama.

My girlfriend in Jamaica tells me that the entire island has been glued to television sets literally willing Obama's victory. My alma mater will host a viewing party tonight. Sparrow and Coco Tea and other soca and reggae singers have recorded compositions in encouragement and salutation to Senator Obama. Other countries around the world are paying attention as the United States stands on the cusp of electing its first black president.

I have never experienced anything that has so excited, activated and unified so many people. Obama supporters cross racial, cultural, political and social lines to form an energized contingency that has put the change we need within reach. No matter what the final count is, Senator Barack Obama has blazed a trail that guarantees his place in American history. I am grateful for the assurance he provides for my sons' future. When I tell them they can be anything they want to be, it will be truer tomorrow than it is today.

That being said, I watch nervously while the pundits guess about the turnout and the final count. I have faith that change will come, but I am also too scared to imagine... So I wait.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hol' it down

There will be celebrations in all corners around the world if (when) Senator Barack Obama wins the presidential election on Tuesday; and West Indians in the U.S. or at home will be throwing the biggest parties. From the several pro-Obama soca and reggae songs created, it is clear that Caribbean neighbors support the Illinois senator. I am a little worried though that we could over do it, so I want to offer some guidance that may help keep our behavior in check.

Firstly, keep the gully creepa, tek wehy yuhself and nuh linga indoors. They could quite honestly scare your neighbors or cause them to call an ambulance to treat you for seizures.

If you are throwing an election watch night party, keep the reggae, soca and compa down. Do not dare the police to disrupt your gathering with declarations of "a we run dis raas now."

Don't light up any herb, with the anticipation that President Barack Obama will legalize di weed.

Don't everyone call in sick on Wednesday, or McCain will not be the only one looking for a new job. Try to remember that you have earned no special priviliges with the election.

Once back at work, it will be good to keep relations with your co-workers cordial. Try not to point and laugh at McCain-Palin supporters or fist bump fellow Obama supporters in the hallways.

If you have to sing We've Come This Far By Faith or The Jefferson's theme song Moving On Up, please have the courtesy to sing inaudibly or just hum.

If you were concerned about being too ethnic prior to the election, now is not the time to come to work wearing madras skirts and headwraps. Also try not to bring any jerk chicken, roti or pepper pot soup to work for lunch for a few weeks. We want to avoid the impression that we are taking over.

Lastly, in your exuberance, please avoid terms that may seem aggressive and scary to others: Di man win to bumboclaat!!, would be a good example.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

This is the hour

This is the hour when commitment is truly tested. This is the hour when words bear fruit or wither and fall like dust. This is the hour when we choose to stand up and be counted or lie down like worthless chaff waiting to be blown with the next breeze. This the hour to make our decision and act.

Never mind what the crowd, family and co-workers are doing. Think of what matters to you and make your own choice. It need not be anyone else's business what your choice is, or why your choice is what it is. You do not have to defend it to anyone; but your conscience should be able to stand against your own questions.

We stand on the brink of history and you need to know that you participated in the process. There is no validation in watching from the sidelines, or following the hype. There are no excuses. There are no good reasons not to play your role in steering the direction of our country.

On the morning of November 5, will you be found wanting?