Monday, January 19, 2009
I can barely express my feelings at this time, this amazing time! Barack Obama is President! I was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1942. My family lived in a small mining town, not even a town, but a 'camp'. It was called Number 8, meaning the number of the mine where my father worked.
My Dad worked with 'coloreds' as they were then called but they were not allowed to walk home through our street. They had to take the alley. On Sunday I watched families walking down our alley to church in their clean white shirts and pretty dresses. Just as I accepted the fact that we took baths in a metal tub, it never occurred to me that there was anything but normal about the situation. Life is simply life when you are very young.
I rode a public bus to school and, of course, so did many African Americans (to different schools). Children, men and old women had to walk past me to sit in the back of the bus. I was never told that was a rule. I never thought to question because it just was. I went to bathrooms for 'whites' only and went into stores where 'coloreds' were not allowed.
Later I moved to Michigan and was teased by relatives about going to school with little 'colored' kids. It was then, at that time, I became aware of the injustice. I awoke to what was being perpetrated on other humans. My Mother was a gentle woman who had great empathy for others and I must credit her with some of my new understanding.
In the sixties, during the civil rights upheaval, my family went to Birmingham for a visits. My Dad, bless his soul, took a visit to an old friend. He was the African American man who used to plow and tend our little garden. My Father drove into his neighborhood, sat at his table and visited despite warnings from our relatives that we would be shot or beat up. We weren't. It was a lesson for me that I will never forget.
As I grew up, went to college, and moved around, I was trailed, haunted in some way, by the fact that my Great Grandfather had owned slaves. Even though I had no part of it, there was something about that knowledge that made me be extra careful to be fair, open and perhaps even unreasonably and obnoxiously so.
When Barack Obama came along I was so excited. I read his books and decided he was an even, sane, intelligent and smart politician. I decided HE was the man to do it so I put my support behind him. I was in tears at rally in downtown Detroit. I knew that the election of this man could change the world.
Election eve I was beside myself when he won! I cried, I screamed, I danced around the room and I took photos of my TV screen. I love our country. I love how far we have come. I love that we can change as a group and I love what we, as a people, can do when we have something to believe in.
Obama is not god and he has challenges that are almost unimaginable but he has brought hope, and revived a dream. His election has released an entire segment of our population from what I can only call 'suppression'. I am one of those people in some strange way. I feel as though I've been part of the struggle though I, clearly, have not been in any real way.
Tuesday is a happy day for this country and the world and there are no good words to express how I feel that I get to be part of this time, this moment.
(This song was written by my brother, Dennis Whorton, who now lives in Canada. I put the video together with photos I took on election eve. I hope you enjoy it. Pass it on if you can.)