Remembering the Night Obama Won

Remembering the Night Obama Won

Published November 10, 2008

Posted Nov. 10, 2008- I write this piece on the eve of my beautiful grandmother’s birthday. My grandmother, who will turn the age of 77 tomorrow, God Willing, still walks the streets of Harlem, NY on her daily outings as vigorously as she did the day she migrated to the Big Apple from her hometown of Goldsboro, North Carolina more than 50 years ago.

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I thought of her as I watched Senator Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. accept his victory as the 44th President of these United Sates of America last night around the 11:00 hour. Addressing this nation with his new world order at task, he spoke of a woman named Ann Nixon Cooper; a 106 year old former homemaker and socialite from Atlanta who for the first time in her life was able to cast her vote for an African-American nominee. For more than a century on this earth, this extraordinary woman has witnessed America evolve before her eyes. I wonder if Mrs. Nixon Cooper or my grandmother ever thought, in their wildest dreams, that they would see a black man being prepared to take the helm of this country.

I think of my maternal grandmother who passed way in 2004, the same year that Barack Obama was just making his mark in the national political arena by giving maybe the most important speech of his career at the Democratic National Convention in Boston.

I think of my mother, as all she could say was “Oh My Goodness,” in between her sobs of joy as she watched the nation erupt with jubilance on her television. I think of my father, who was an award-winning journalist in New York City during the 1980’s, when young black people were being killed at an alarming rate by a bigoted NYPD and the devastating crack epidemic.

I think of my grandfather, who fell limp across his bed crying when he received the news that Malcolm X was killed at the Audubon Ballroom in New York City.

My brother and I are two black men who have not reached the quarter-century mark of our lives yet, and last night was the first time we were able to witness history firsthand. Fervently watching the non-stop coverage on TV, we saw hundreds of thousands of people roaring with a fresh excitement at Grant Park in Chicago. There were captivated New Yorkers getting out of idling taxi cabs, taking cell phone of this remarkable event as it ran across the big ticker in Times Square. As we flipped through the channels, we were captivated by a lone white lawn chair delightfully bouncing up and down in the hand of a Kenyan man celebrating the victory for his hero more than 3,000 miles away. We saw Black students mesmerized at Morehouse and Spellman, and we imagined white students captivated at Harvard and Oxford.

It’s not like the racial atrocities of this country ended in the 1960’s. It was only 10 years ago I was horrified to hear of the decapitation and dismembering of James Byrd in Jasper, Texas, as three klansman chained Byrd to their pickup truck and dragged him for three miles. It was one year later that Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by four NYPD officers in front of his Bronx apartment building while he was reaching in his pocket to show them his identification. 2005 brought the destruction of Hurricane Katrina, which in turn shed light on the current government’s abandonment of the predominantly poor and black citizens of New Orleans. Even recently, the painful symbols of nooses have popped up all around the country, most notably in Jena, Louisiana. These labyrinths of events led the way as Barack Obama ran a presidential campaign whose foundation was unifying this country as one framework; with the voices of race, class, sexuality and all of our differences shouting in an uplifting roar to bring this country back to a glorious prominence.

As I made my way to work this morning, I examined the weary, red eyes of all of my fellow taxpayers on our daily commute. Their eyes showing the residue of a sleepless night where their head couldn’t hit their pillow until they checked every news channel to see if it was really true. Was it really true that this charismatic Senator from Illinois-whom everyone said was running too early in his career (including me)-had really defeated the admirable Senator John McCain? Was it true that this man will embody the essence of our first Black President; an icon that has for many years been made into a fairy tale, the butt of jokes and an impossible dream? Yes it was.

There are not enough words to describe how monumental last night truly was, as I could only discover a few of them from the banks of my opinion. As I conclude this piece, I want to talk about watching the eyes of the Rev. Jesse Jackson well up with tears. Along with the late and incomparable Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, Jackson helped to open the door for Obama’s historic run, as his campaign used the nickels, dimes and voices of a matchless grassroots-pushing Rainbow Coalition to push him into the Oval Office. Over the years, Jackson has had a tendency to speak before he thinks. And when he made that silly remark about cutting off nuts on Fox News a couple of months ago, I got really annoyed with him for what I thought to be jealous rambling. But as the months came closer and closer to Obama’s victory, that annoyance turned into understanding; I understood that Jackson probably couldn’t deal with a new era of black leadership in this country taking his place, an era that will maybe see his son, Illinois Representative Jesse Jackson Jr., making a run for the Presidency in the years to come. For nearly 40 years, Jackson was considered by many an influence in the black community that could be heard by all sides of the spectrum; whether serving as the master of ceremonies at Wattstax as he led the chants of “I am somebody,” or orchestrating the release of a shot down Navy pilot in Syria.

When I saw Rev. Jackson’s tears, I thought about his mentor, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. The last speech that he would give in his life on that April night in Memphis rang so true with me, as we as a people, black and white, have finally reached that mythic mountaintop together. As I wait for that awesome day that will take place in Washington, D.C. in January, my prayers are with the families of Barack Obama and Joe Biden, praying that the Lord will guide every step they take on their incredible, capricious journey. I’ll end my piece with the words of Dr. King, as he will serve as the tour guide for our new destination: the Promised Land.

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.

{Text courtesy of}

Written by BET-Staff


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