A couple of days back I was reading Decoded, Jay Z’s autobiography and I got to this page below where he was talking about getting involved in Obama’s election – the first time round, those heady Yes! We Can! days.
The phrase that caught my attention the most is the same one that’s on the sideline
He (Obama) could, through sheer symbolism, regardless of any of his actual politics, change the lives of millions of black kids who saw something different to aspire to – Jay Z
That was a very good summation of my old Facebook note Kini Big Deal? from Nov’ 08 just after watching the inauguration. Two terms are almost over now and you can argue whether Obama passed or failed. But the message that he stood for, stands for remains true.
Original unedited post below.
I hardly slept yesterday.
The initial results that came in gave McCain a shaky lead and for all the bravado and unfazed enthusiasm that I usually displayed anytime Obama and the election came up, I was still aware that things could go wrong at the last moment. So I did not sleep until there was a comfortable lead as reported by my text updates. But why should this election even be my problem, it’s not a Nigerian election; Visas are not going to become easier; Obama’s probably not going to declare a special “Save Africa” initiative; and even if he did we all know where the bulk of the money might end up. So why did I care? Why am I so ecstatic?
During a discussion I once had with my friends, we discussed development, advancement and governance in Nigeria and Africa. Eventually we gravitated towards blacks in general. He gave excuses for the general backwardness of the black race; citing years of slavery, colonization, indoctrination, the whole shebang. I don’t like excuses, though I make them sometimes, so I was adamant we were responsible for our own destinies and that, had fortune reversed and we found ourselves superior, we probably would have done worse to the whites. The only thing I was not sure of is whether we’d have advanced as much as they have. He retorted, giving the example of a dog that had been restrained all its life. He postulated that even if the chains were removed, the dog would not venture beyond the limits that had been defined for it all its life. To my dear friend that was the problem with blacks, even though physically the shackles have been shed, the limitations remain in our minds.
And that’s why this is such a big deal for me. Obama challenged the system, the prejudices, the limits. One of my friend’s status update on Facebook read “free, free, free at last!” this morning. Another update read, “If the terminator can be governor and Obama president, then nothing is impossible unless you say it is!” And my, did they capture it? That’s the big deal. It was early last year I first heard about Barack Hussein Obama. I was informed he was one of the democratic aspirants. And that he was black. And young. And kinda inexperienced. I was tempted to scoff, but I didn’t and just decided to wait and see. Then I heard him talk and I was like, “good God!” Then I read that book, “The Audacity of Hope” and watched the democratic debate with Hillary Clinton in The University of Texas at Austin. By that time I was officially an Obamaniac. Like he admitted in his victory speech this morning, he was not the most likely contestant for the seat. But he started with nothing more than the unmitigated effrontery to dare to think that the time had come for a black family to live in the white house. For a black man to take charge of the destiny of the United States.
Now, this was something I was told many times by my neighbours that’s impossible. “How now?” “Forget the polls jo!” “Na lie, he no fit!” Well to the question, “can he?” Well, “yes he can!” I was reading my bible when someone crashed into my room. “Victory speech!!!” I dropped the bible. God forgive me. I watched the galvanized Americans, young and old, black and white. I saw the tears from Oprah and Reverend Jesse Jackson. I sat quietly through it all wondering if it was a dream. It’s a big deal because one man, a black junior senator from Illinois (elected 2005) decided he was going to run for the highest office against unbelievable odds and did it. Suddenly, those dreams that had started to mold in the far reaches of my mind find new life. Now, I’m not silly enough to think all of them will come true, but now I’d dare to hope that they just might. And I believe I’m not alone in this. So for all the people who this was a big deal for, who have found hope from these historic events, borrowing the closing lines of Obama, “where we are met with cynicism and doubts and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can!”
And yes, we will!