Monday, November 10, 2008

I had no idea



Sorry, this image is so small. But I couldn't figure out how to enlarge it.
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I had no idea how happy I would be that Obama won the election.
I had no idea how sad I would be to hear that people in my state
are buying more handguns and assault rifles as a result of his win.
They say they are buying them because they fear he will increase gun control,
so they'd better stock up now.

I had no idea how much I would think about Barack Obama's family life in the White House. The girls going to school. Raising their new puppy. Deciding on dinner menus and birthday guest lists.
I had no idea how sad I would be to have to wonder and worry about whether or not the President-Elect would survive until his inauguration.

But I am happy, hopeful, prayerful, and excited.
I had no idea just how happy I would be.

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Here is an email I received recently that moved me deeply.
I don't know who all the people are that are referred to in this piece,
but that's okay. They all had a part in what we celebrated last Tuesday night.
And they have much to celebrate with us.

Inauguration Ball 2009

Guests began arriving early. There are no place cards and
no name tags. Everyone knows everyone else here. Now, there's a grand
foursome - Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz sharing laughs with Martin and Coretta
Scott King. Looks like Hosea Williams refused the limo again, keeping it
real. And my goodness; is that Rosa Parks out there on the dance floor
with A. Phillip Randolph? Seated at a nearby table, Frederick Douglass has a captive
audience in W.E.B. DuBois and Fannie Lou Hamer, and Medgar Evers has just joined them.

Marian Anderson was asked to sing tonight, but she only agreed to do it if
accompanied by Marvin Gaye, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix.
Look, there's Harriet Tubman. No one knows how she arrived, but there she
is. And my guess is that, when the time comes, no one will see her leave.
There's Jackie Robinson swiftly making his way through
the hall as the crowd parts like the Red Sea to the unmistakable sound of
applause. "Run, Jackie, run!"Along the way he is embraced by Jessie Owens.
Three beautiful young women arrive with their escorts - Schwerner, Goodman and
Chaney. Ms. Viola Liuzzo flew in from Michigan, exclaiming, "I could not
miss this." Richard Pryor promised to be on his best behavior.
"But I can't make any guarantees for Redd Foxx and Moms Mabley," he
chuckled. Joe Louis just faked a quick jab to the chin of Jack Johnson, who smiled broadly
while slippingit. We saw Billy Eckstine and Nat King Cole greet Luther
Van Dross. James Brown and Josh Gibson stopped at Walter Payton's table
to say hello.

I spotted Congressman Adam Clayton Powell of Harlem having
a lively political discussion with Eldredge Cleaver. Pearl Harbor WWII
hero Dorey Miller shared a few thoughts with Crispus Attucks,
a hero of the Revolutionary War.. And there is Madam C.J. Walker talking
with Marcus Garvey about exporting goods to Africa.
General Benjamin O. Davis flew into Washington safely with
an escort from the 99th Fighter Squadron - better known as The Tuskegee
Airman. At the table on the left are three formidable women - Shirley
Chisholm, Sojourner Truth, and Barbara Jordan - gathered for a little
girl-talk... about world politics. As usual, all the science nerds seem to have gathered off
in a corner, talking shop.

There's Granville T.. Woods and Lewis Latimer needling each other about whose inventions are better. Someone jokingly asked Benjamin Banneker if he had needed directions to Washington. And George Washington Carver was overheard asking, "What, no peanuts?"

Dualing bands? Anytime Duke Ellington and Count Basie get
together, you knowthe place will be jumping. Tonight is special, of course,
so we have Miles, Dizzy, and Satchmo sitting in on trumpet, with Coltrane,
Cannonball, and Bird on sax. Everyone's attention is directed to the
dance floor where Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is tap dancing. Right beside
him is Sammy Davis Jr., doing his Bojangles routine. And behind his back, Gregory
Hines is imitating them both. Applause and laughter abound! The Hollywood
contingent has just arrived from the Coast. Led by filmmaker Oscar Micheau,
Paul Robeson, Cana Lee, and Hattie McDaniel, they find their way to their
tables. Dorothy Dandridge, looking exquisite in gold lamé, is seen
signaling to her husband, Harold Nicholas, who is standing on the floor with brother
Fayard watching Gregory Hines dance. "Hold me back," quips
Harold, "before I show that youngster how it's done." Much laughter!

Then a sudden hush comes over the room.
The guests of honor have arrived.
The President and Mrs. Obama looked out across the enormous
ballroom at all the historic faces. Very many smiles, precious few dry eyes.
Someone shouted out, "You did it! You did it!"
And President Obama replied,
"No sir, you did it; you all - each and every one of you - did it.
Your guidance and encouragement; your hard work and perseverance. .."
Obama paused, perhaps holding back a tear.
"I look at your faces - your beautiful faces -
and I am reminded that The White House was built by faces that looked just like yours.
On October 3, 1792, the cornerstone of the White House was laid, and the
foundations and main residence of The White House were built mostly by both
enslaved and free African Americans and paid Europeans. In fact, most of
the other construction work was performed by immigrants, many of whom
had not yet become citizens. Much of the brick and plaster work was
performed by Irish and Italian immigrants. The sandstone walls were built by
Scottish immigrants. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that The White House is,
ultimately, The People's House, with each President serving as its steward. Since 1792
The People have trimmed its hedges, mowed its
lawn, stood guard at the gate, cooked meals in the kitchen, and scrubbed its
toilet bowls. But 216 years later, The People are taking it back!

"Today, Michelle and I usher in a new era. But while
we and our family look toward the future with so much hope, we know that we must
also acknowledge fully this milestone in our journey. We want to thank each
and every one of you for all you have done to make this day possible. I
stand here before you, humbled and in awe of your accomplishments and
sacrifice, and I will dedicate my Presidency, in your honor, to the principles of
peace, liberty and freedom.

If it ever appears that I'm forgetting that, I know I can count on you to remind me."


Then he pointed to me (the author of this piece) near the stage...
"Kenyada, isn't it time for you to wake up for work?
Isn't it time for all of us to wake up and get to work?"
Suddenly I awake and sit up in bed with a knowing smile.
My wife stirs and sleepily asks if I'm OK.
"I've never been better," I replied, "Never better. It's gonna be a good day."


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A good day, indeed.

5 comments:

Kenyada said...

Thanks for highlighting my essay, Inauguration Ball 2009. It has been well received on the Internet, and I hope it will compel people to look further into African American History to discover how much a part of American History it really is.

Tony said...

I'm optimistic on the whole. . . But, I see gun control as a cloud hanging over the Obama administration. I remember what it was like during the dark days of the Clinton administration when gun control was a hugely divisive issue. The whole militia movement, Ruby Ridge, Mount Carmel, and ultimately the Oklahoma City bombing all traced back to Clinton's anti-gun agenda.

If Obama is smart, he won't take the country there again. However, I think the real threat is from the newly empowered Democratic congressional leaders. If they push through another AWB law, then Obama will be in no position to veto it even if he wanted to. He's already gone on record in his campaign saying he'd support it. (Ironically, McCain said he'd support it too.)

Jena Strong said...

Me too, Gail. All of it. It's a good day, a new day. I had no idea. We are so ready for this. Be sure to stop by my blog to watch the will.i.am video.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

xo Jena

Amy said...

Oh, Gail (and Kenyada!) ... what a beautiful post. I literally have goosebumps right now. I've already decided I'm taking inauguration day off from work. I want to see history being made!

GailNHB said...

Kenyada, what an honor to have you come to see my blog and comment here. Yours is one of the most moving pieces I have read about since the election. Please keep writing and sharing your thoughts and dreams with the rest of us.

Tony, you are right; there are challenging and important decisions that Barack and the Congress will have to make. May we all find a way to do what is best for our nation and the world.

Amy and Jena, thanks, as always for your support and encouragement here. I am loving the way you both are celebrating this victory. Love the video, Jena. Much to sing and dance about!