It's finally here. Enter a new era. Many believe Barack Obama's presidency will be the fulfillment of Dr. Martin L. King's dream that our nation will finally live out the true meaning of its creed; that all men are created equal, and that we as a people have finally reached the promised land. Are you one of those people?
I am the descendant of slaves. More than 200 years ago, my mother's paternal ancestors were enslaved by the families of the first President of the United States, George Washington and his wife, Martha Dandrige-Custis. Looking back, it is difficult to imagine their thoughts and feelings about their own lives as they witnessed the seminal events surrounding the founding of our nation, or what they knew to be true about our founding father. Ironically, a few of these same ancestors would soon experience a modicum of freedom at the deaths of the Washington's, but it is a matter of conjecture what dreams they may have harbored for their own lives, the lives of their children and their children's children. I believe it is impossible that they could have imagined the events that will unfold today, Tuesday Jan 20, 2008, as Barack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States.
I am my father's son. My father was born in 1927. He was a child of the Great Depression, and he struggled through the 40s, 50s and 60s working as many as three jobs at once to raise a family in Jim Crow America. Before he died in 1997, he shared his struggle with me, and I realized that as a child, I had actually witnessed some of it unfold. Consequently, there are a few fundamental things I learned early on about issues of race that are hard to let go of. In a scene from the 1968 Sidney Poitier movie classic, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, Poitier's character has a showdown with his father over his impending interracial marriage. It is a scene that has always ripped my heart out as Poitier is confronted with the ugly truths of being a black man in America. The father stands adamant in his position that not much has changed even for 1968, and that his son must always remember that he is a man of color in a white man's world, and it is insinuated that he must order his life accordingly. The gut wrenching moment culminates with Poitier lovingly and respectfully informing his father that he saw himself as not just a "colored" man but as a man. Period. I heard this thought reiterated just the other day by a famous football star as he pledged to no longer see himself as just an African American, but as an American. Period. I will never dismiss nor forget the experiences of the men of my father's generation. There is so much that seperates my total experience on earth from my dad's, but due to my own 21st Century experiences, sometimes I am forced to wonder exactly how far removed I really am from them at all. Some say we can finally set aside the weight of being black first, that we now just relax and just BE. I heard someone else say we can't just be because we won't just be. But does Barack Obama even have that particular luxury? Forget being black first, he is a first black, and there are some who even want to deny him that. I don't believe we've quite reached the mountaintop, but for those who have grown weary, we certainly have a renewed strength to keep climbing. President Obama will help us fulfill the dream...we're closer than we've ever been...this is just the fulfillingness first finale. My father was such a macho man, and it was a rare treat to see him get emotional. It reminded me that he was still human. I'd give anything to see how he'd handle the events that will have transpired at the close of this day's end.
I am a black gay man. I've never really had too much of an issue wearing both labels at once, and if there was ever really an issue, I was too self-absorbed to fully recognize it; I believe I've worn these labels by divine design, and I've created a number of knockout ensembles by mixing the two. President Obama will be the first president that I believe will fully speak to my existence in this world, the first president that will give more than lip service or offer empty platitudes on racial issues, and it is unprecedented that we will have a Commander-In-Chief that includes gays and lesbians in his total vision of a new America. Regardless, I don't think there are too many "doubly dynamic" brothas out there who will argue that we can now wear our tailored attire as loose garments totally free of constriction. We still have to contend with the bondage of law and religion, and most of us aren't even free in our own minds yet. Right now for me it's all about courage. It takes courage to speak out and say "I will no longer be a slave" or "I will no longer be bound by man's limitations (including my own)" or to declare "I am free", but I have no doubt that there will now be more who will do just that! I can say that on this day that Barack Obama takes the oath of his office, I also do hereby pledge to be more courageous. We've already started to climb the mountain and the top is fully in view. Now let's get over the rough side!
I am Barack Obama. The rest of this paragraph hasn't been lived yet. Welcome to the Obama Nation!