Sunday, January 06, 2008

A Testament of Hope


I still cannot believe it. Barack Obama won the Iowa caucuses handily. As I packed for my voyage back to school I couldn't believe what I was seeing. This is a historic moment for the nation and also for black folk, whether you support Obama or not. I believe that a great many African Americans are very cynical about Obama and his run for the White House. I will admit that I was one of them. "He's not going to win. Why even put yourself through the pressure and stress" was my thought. America is a nation where race rules. I believe that it still does, but those lines have been blurred, at least a little. Regardless of what happens from here on out for the senator from Illinois he has made a statement about what could possibly be.

I remember as a kid with my Jesse Jackson Button on in 1984, thinking "We gonna have a black president?" Of course Jackson's "Hymietown" remarks would end any hopes of his winning Iowa, New Hampshire, or anything of that magnitude. Obama's accomplishment like one of Dr. King's posthumously published essays is a "Testament of Hope." However my hope is not a blind one that does not recognize the hard and difficult road ahead that Obama faces. Even if he should win the Democratic nomination and let us just say for the sake of argument he is indeed elected, he is but a mere symbol of a movement for equality and opportunity that has slowed to a unnoticeable crawl.

Barack Obama represents only a tiny minuscule piece of the black experience. No, he may not have the so called "street cred" that inspired Donny Hathaway to write about "The Ghetto" or "The Slums", Marvin Gaye to scream out and holler in "Inner City Blues", Curtis Mayfield to pen the lyrics "my mother bore me in the ghetto, there was no mattress for my head. But no she couldn't name me Jesus...I wasn't white enough she said." Obama still may not even have found favor with Notorious B.I.G.'s tragic anthem "Everyday Struggle" or even understand why Tupac "Shed So Many Tears". That said, how many of us symbolize the entirety of the black experience? Just like Denzel Washington's character in Soldier's Story we as African Americans cannot dictate and judge when someone is black enough (of course Clarence Thomas and Ward Connerly...and several others are more than a cause for concern).

If Obama does occupy the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, all he will be a representation of a movement of transplanted Africans just like King, Malcolm, Fannie Lou Hamer, or Ella Baker, and martyrdom of Jimmie Lee Jackson or Emmett Till before him. Obama can embody the hopes of dreams that have so long been differed. However, if the majority of black folk are not ready for the revolution of our minds, spirits, and our very existences in the most holistic sense all the pomp and circumstance that would come from Obama's election will be for naught.

Psalms 68:61 (KJV) reads, "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." That passage gives me a renewed sense of optimism about what can happen in this society. Is American democracy perfect? Not by any means. Its very fortune and rise to power was sealed with the free labor and blood of African slaves. Despite this history if we are not able to walk with Obama just like many were not ready to walk with King when he criticized Vietnam, or when Malcolm formed the Organization of Afro-American Unity....we will not be stretching arms to God, we will be sitting down watching progress pass us by yet again, and our oppressors will slyly say, "Your Arms Too Short to Box With God."

Though YouTube will bring you the election in various forms, the "Revolution Will Not be Televised". Speaking of which, it would be so cold to see Gil Scott Heron performing that spoken word as Barack Obama walks onto the stage to speak at the Democratic National Convention, better yet what about Bob Marley singing "Redemption Song"? Maybe that is asking too much. Sometimes, my lofty idealism gets the best of me. Aside from my nostalgia about some black musicians/artists, it is more important than ever to tear off the shackles of fear, ignorance, and greed and let us all walk into the White House with Obama, whether he is elected or not.

1 comment:

sR said...

I'll refrain going on my normal tangent about the significance of Obama - afterall, this is your space. But, I will say, if nothing else, this is such an exciting time in American history. Obama represents hope. And, I understand some (media, etc.) may not understand the significance of that, but for young, black children who grew up being laughed at when they said they wanted to be President one day, Obama represents the encouragement to dream bigger and broader. And that lofty dreams combined with consistent, hard work actually can result in progress.

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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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