Last night, I went to my daughter Chelsea’s home to watch the returns. She was having a watch party. It was the perfect venue for that night for many reasons. Chelsea’s mom, Sayida Stone, my first wife and a dear friend, is African American. Chelsea is a Black woman, a mixed race child of America. She has three children, my grand children. Their father, Ebon, a schoolteacher, martial artist and musician, is Afro-Italian-Puerto Rican. From the beginning, Chelsea was deeply moved by Obama’s candidacy. It was their time, it was their day, and it is their time now.
Chelsea’s sister, Alana, her mom’s daughter with her husband who is Jamaican, is 21 years old, a brilliant artist and a junior at MICA. I call her my daughter once removed, she calls me Saba, which is Hebrew for grandfather. Alana was there with a dozen of her classmates. Young, African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and white who worked for this campaign, who believed in this message of hope.
Chelsea’s friends who were there ranged from 28 to their early forties, every color of the American rainbow. Her mom, her husband Jenel, and others of our generation were there, as well.
The feeling in her home was electric and explosive, but explosive with peace and hope. When Obama was announced the next President of the Untied States of America, there was a pandemonium of joy, screaming, shouting, hugging, singing and champagne corks popping.
I looked around realizing this was their day. These young people believed so deeply and were so full of what the future might bring to us all.
While watching television it was hard not to notice the contrast between the Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago and the McCain supporters. Obama’s in a public park with thousands of people of every generation and race in America and McCain’s in a private club for the wealthy and all, well not all, but almost all, white.
This was an election of the two Americas from which we were born and in which we still live. Our great nation has no state religion. Our state religion is our democracy, our belief in freedom and liberty. The USA was founded on liberty and slavery in the same breath. Imagine that and think about that for a moment. Liberty and slavery are the foundations of our nation. The roots of the contradiction and the hope that dwell uneasily together in our nation’s soul were alive and palpable last night in this election.
Maybe the tenor is about to change. Race and racism hurt America. It is a deep wound in the Black American spirit. It is a burden of pain in white America, as well.
The man who was voted in to become the 44th President of the United States of America may be changing the tenor and tone of our nation. In the spirit of the civil rights warriors, he was unbowed and non-violent in his stand against his tormentors in this campaign. When Barack Obama was faced with lies and low blows dealt by his opponents, the Republican Party and their independent advocates, he responded with dignity, strength and love. So many of his supporters screamed that he should fight back, blow for blow and spit in their eye. Barack Obama chose to hold his head and his sense of morality and ethics high, so he kept walking straight ahead amidst the verbal blows and lies. He set a standard for his supporters and the America he believes in. The roots of that way of responding politically come from Martin Luther King, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that they gave birth to and that gave birth to them. It bodes well for what we may be able to do in America together.
I am not naïve about the difficulty that lies ahead of us. Barack Obama is not the savior; he is the embodiment of hope for many Americans. The struggle is now on to define our future. We can now fight for something rather than against it. We will have a seat at the table for the debate on our nation’s future. We have serious work ahead of us.
Good gumbo, too, last night… A gumbo of America in the room, a gumbo of America who voted Obama, and a great gumbo in the pot.