by Lea Gilmore
In less than 24 hours, I will be on my way to cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver for the Center for Emerging Media (CEM) and public radio WEAA 88.9 FM. Wait, I need to say that once more: I am on my way to cover the Democratic National Convention in Denver for the Center for Emerging Media and WEAA! Forgive me, I had to say it twice so the enormity of it all could sink in.
Just for a bit of trivia here, did you know that the first ever Democratic Convention was held in Baltimore in 1832 where President Andrew Jackson was nominated? http://www.cnn.com/
Go and throw that fact out the next time you are sitting in Jimmy’s having breakfast with the morning java crowd and watch them be impressed at your political acumen, or something like that.
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For we political junkies, and policy wonks, covering the National Democratic Convention is like going to the Major Leagues and being told you are going to pitch for The Yankees (maybe not the thing to say being the consummate Baltimorean I am). Or for we singer types, this is our debut at “The Met.”
All conventions have their drama. This convention? The word DRAMA should be typed in 50 font, caps and bold with underlines (I won’t freak you out by doing so, but you get my drift.)
Will the choice of Senator Joseph Biden, Chair of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee and thirty-six year veteran of the U.S. Senate, as Obama’s Vice-Presidential pick (more on this later) usher in a much needed party unity? Will the mainstream press continue to fan the flames of dissension, and we continue not to notice that that is what they are doing? Heck, conflict sells. Will the Obama-ites acknowledge the Clinton supporters with the respect that is deserved and due? Will the Democrats be critical of Obama and his policies without being destructive? It is all yet to come.
CEM will be bringing you up-to-date progressive analysis of events. Let us be your one stop shop for timely information. We will be covering protests, topical roundtable events and seminars, talking with the Maryland delegation, blogging throughout the day and evening, and presenting live coverage every evening of the convention on WEAA 88.1 from 8pm – 11pm.
Now, please allow me to take a moment to get personal.
As a black American woman, this is one magic, unbelievable, breathtakingly amazing moment in time. I see Michelle Obama walk across the stage, passionately speaking to thousands, being handed flowers by a small child in Iowa, and even being a guest host on that gab fest “The View,” and I say to myself “this elegant woman just may be the Next. First. Lady. – wow.”
I have also had some moments of personal frustration (haven’t we all) during this loooong campaign season. It really kills me when I hear pundit types state with authority that “all African Americans believe this about that…,” or “African Americans say that they want this to be that…” It’s like one day all of us gathered around one enormous dinner table at Aunt Sarah’s and decided how we all think about well – everything. In fact, this is just far from the truth and far from reality.
We are not a monolith and thank God for that. There are some African Americans who are not besides themselves with support for Senator Obama. There are some who actually voted for the other folks with pride and conviction that we need to respect.
But I feel safe in saying, that on August 28, 2008, exactly 45 years to the date of the Rev. Martin Luther King’s life-changing “I Have A Dream” speech at the Mall in Washington DC, African Americans of all idealogical stripes, will be gathered around televisions, radios, and all forms of media that didn’t even exist in 1963 to watch this African American become the Democratic nominee for the President of the United States of America. Even typing it gives me the chills. I was not yet born to personally witness Dr. King’s brilliant, poignant and moving orations, but I will be in the house to experience history first hand this time. I wish to heaven that my dad, born a sharecropper and functionally illiterate until he was 30, and possibly the wisest and most politically astute man I have ever known, was here to be a witness with me. This event did not happen in his lifetime, but it happened in mine and my sons’.
So, even in some our hesitance to support Senator Obama’s policies or politics, even when we doubt that any system could be truly fair to those who continue to scream for justice on Washington’s deaf ears, we know and understand at a profound level that when Obama says “this is our moment…this is our time” it means so much to so many of us.
Yes, It is ALL of our moments and ALL our time.
We know that race and class are still powerful dividers in this land of ours, and we know that there will be folks who will never ever vote for a black man. Period. But one thing for certain, this country has made some serious strides to have this son of a Kenyon father and white American mother be just a few steps (still rather large steps) from becoming the leader of the free world.
And the world wants him. And yes, that matters. I travel often to Europe and live and work closely with everyday folks. This past March, I was staying in a small hotel in Brussels called The Hotel Mozart near the Grand Place This hotel was decorated with the most incredibly gaudy stuff (but still cool in a crushed red velvet kinda way) circa 1750. There were big gold framed paintings of Mozart and his contemporaries all over. And in between the paintings, there were huge posters saying “Obama for America!.” “Obama for President!” When I went to check-in, the owner heard my accent and immediately started talking to me about the election. “Obama gives us hope,” he stated. “I wish we could all vote for him,” he continued. The 60-something French tourist behind me joined in the chorus of “We need him for America and we need him for us.” So, even though this may be idealistic, for the past eight years these were not the kind of words I have been hearing. Believe me on that one.
This man with the that funny name that’s just a bit too close to that other man’s name (who we still have yet to find) was offering something to the world that the world needs as much as we do – hope.
Yeah, we know hope is not enough. But the absence of it is deadly.
I am still a healthy skeptic, but I am not swayed by these empty arguments such as “is he elitist?” “Is he rich?” “Will he be ready on day one?” Heck, they are all rich and went to the most elite schools in the world, and how do you gage if anyone is really and truly ready “on day one?”
We know that Obama must bring the goods. We must keep him accountable to the people who put him in the position he is currently in. We must make sure that he doesn’t bend too much that he snaps his integrity and our belief in him at the same time.
I’m tired though and I am hungry for change.
I’m just tired of this war and the lies and more lies being quietly exposed around it. I’m tired of when someone is is given the “smart” label that that is actually spun by the great spinning machines as a fault. I don’t want a president I can have a beer with, we see what that got us. I want a president who truly does believe that diplomacy works or at least gives it a try. I want a president that recognizes that an isolationist foreign policy is not the way to go in a world that has become increasingly global. I want a president that does not believe we need to “Americanize” the world, but in his or her own leadership represents what is best about a democratic political system, as well as be a serious vocal champion for human rights. I want a president who will not stack the Supreme Court with Justices who are ready, willing and able to wipe-out reproductive justice for a generation of women, after a prior generation of women fought so hard for us to legally own our bodies and make our own choices. This is what I hope for and so much more.
Maya Angelo in her poem “And Still I Rise” said to folks in her breathtaking poem:
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
Senator Obama you are “ the dream and hope of the slave,” as well as the same for so many others – women, men, and children of all hues.
Now Mr. Obama, mean what you say, and say what you mean. We’re listening.
I will see you all soon in Denver!