Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Reflections on the Win...a Night To Never Forget

The night of the election, I drove to an election party at a local bar, my hands clenched tightly around the steering wheel as I heard what I thought was an announcer indicating that McCain had taken Pennsylvania. When I realized finally that they were talking about Obama, I relaxed slowly, not wanting to allow myself to believe until everything was for sure. I wandered into the bar tentatively. I wasn't meeting up with friends, and no matter what was about to happen, it was bound to be an emotional night.

I spent the first part of the evening tucked away in a crowded area of the bar, uninterested in expending the tremendous effort it would be to navigate the crowd only to stand in another crowded area. It was a good sized, diverse crowd. Lots of young folks. A fair chunk of old folks. Some folks were coming back and forth between the congressman's party and this party, but from what I heard, we were the younger crowd with more folks of color and more food and fun. I couldn't hear the reporters on the television, but the visual images were enough.

Obama. Obama.
Two more states for Obama.

Another win for Obama.

Well, that one was expected.

Two women finally started chatting with me, and pretty soon I began shaking hands and meeting the people around me. The mood was jubilant and cheerful, even if afraid to believe. A congregant from the church where I serve spotted me and came over. We chatted for a bit, and then he returned to the folks he was with. The energy was starting to buzz in the air.

The more time that went on, the more confident we all became. We watched the senate majority climb (yahoo!): 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56...

I was getting impatient. This all looked like such good news, and everyone began to feel ready for the announcement of Obama's win. It was late, and I was tired, but it all felt so imminent, and I didn't want to go home without hearing for sure. I distracted myself in conversations with the folks around me: what work we do, how long we have been in our city, in the state, how long we have been voting, what we like to do in our spare time. I haven't done anything social like that with total strangers for a long time.

In a moment of total distraction, I glanced up at the screen just as the announcement came across, "Barack Obama: President Elect." I didn't know if I should trust what I was seeing and hearing, but suddenly the crowd broke out in cheers. This was it.

I can't even begin to describe to you what that moment was like in that room. We were screaming and laughing, and we were all embracing one another. Strangers and friends all in one moment. A woman who moved to the United States from Kenya eight years ago stood in front of me, hands clasped together in the air for a long time after the first rush of cheers had died down. Another woman kept pounding her fists on the bar, and saying, "Now we are one. Now we are one." A woman originally from Rwanda stood staring at the television screen with tears streaming down her face. All of us were crying.

I wish I could convey to you better what it was like, but I can't. It was so visceral. It was this palpable healing energy. It did not fix everything, but it was needed to soothe our souls. I have never in my life experienced something quite like it, and I know I will be lucky if I experience it again.

There is a great post on one of the blogs I follow about the bittersweet moment this was, when on one hand so much progress was made and on another, so much ground was lost: But the words to a hymn come to mind: "We will get there. Heaven knows how we will get there, but we know we will."

There is a long road ahead of us. It will be hard. It will be full of pain and difficult decisions and hardship. Justice will not always be served. But I can see Obama isn't wasting time, nor disengaging from the public discourse that was the campaign: I am impressed.

I have been very teary since the election. My children may remember into adulthood the way we talk about how we have the power for positive change, and the way President Elect Obama has reminded us of that and called us to keep on keeping on. This is huge. Huge. May we never forget, and may we Get. To. Work.


sf said...

Amen, sistah! (even though you are my daughter)

BirthinEarthMama said...

How wonderful that you were able to be in such an eclectic environment during one of the most monumental moments of our lives! I envy you that! I live in a very right-wing, almost entirely white rural community. The views are very traditional and very old. I can sincerely say I was among the minority to be celebrating that night. But it didn't diminish my excitement or the gravity of the circumstance that I felt that night watching with my husband sitting on our couch.

I am still moved hearing your words rolling through my head. How awesome to be there with so many people from so many different countries, different cultures, different perspectives. How eclectic!!