I’ll just say it.
Yesterday, the day of Obama’s inauguration, was one of the most stressful days of my entire life.
I had this picture in my mind of how the day would play out for me in Washington D.C.—an impossible sunshine image that didn’t include the clouds of life’s little realities.
We arrived at the back of the Capital building around 8am, figuring we would just circumvent the ticketed area and walk up the mall to find a spot. But instead, we were greeted by about 300,000 angry ticket-holders—some of whom, I later heard on the news, never got in to see the events at all.
We tried to pass through the lines, which were each about 30-people wide. Big mistake. We cut through all the people, and were met by a concrete wall, caution tape and fences on the other side. Many other people were filing in behind us, so we were essentially drowning in the crowd. No air to breath. When we tried to get out, various uninformed security personnel kept pushing us back into this vortex of stress by giving us faulty information and/or yelling this at us: “You can’t be in this area!!! Turn back!!! What about yellow tape do you not understand!!!” (yeah, a parking attendant woman yelled that at my entire family).
Literally no one would let us through…
…Except for an elderly African-American woman, standing with the aide of a walker. A woman who had been standing outside since 4:30 in the morning.
Ray of light #1.
After we escaped (because that’s really what it felt like), we proceeded to zig zag up the letter streets and across the number streets for about another 2 hours until we got to 18th street. And, finally, to the mall, which looked more splendid than a glass of half-melted ice cubes on a hot summer day.
Ray of light #2.
We ended up settling at a Jumbotron right behind the Washington Monument. I couldn’t have asked for a better spot – it was positively picturesque.
Ray of light #3.
But then the clouds created a shadow yet again when a 20-something year old college kid standing behind me asked if he could put his hands in my hair to keep them warm (I’ll just refer to this Melissa Harris-Lacewell interview from Rachel Maddow’s pre-inauguration show to address that one).
After all that, though, the rays of light that had been piercing the clouds all day seemed to overtake the sky and shine brilliantly. They manifested themselves in several different ways.
How, you ask?
Well like, for instance, each time the speakers asked the audience to “please rise” or “please be seated”. These requests triggered the purest giggle inside of me—and everyone else on the mall, so it seemed. It was like we were all in on a secret joke with a hilarity 10 freezing hours in the making. I basked in the shared laughter of 1.5 million people.
Or when I pinned my aunt’s Civil Rights quilt around my shoulders to keep warm. Many people stopped to marvel at her craft—take pictures even—and I basked in their appreciation of her brilliance.
And, finally, when Obama took the oath of office. I basked in the fact that splendor and reality had finally converged into one magnificent definition.
I'm thinking my day was somehow a metaphor for America's changing of power. But I know now I'm getting crazy deep on you.
That’s how it all went down for me. How did January 20th, 2009 play out for you?
When my father emailed me asking for my definition of Politico.com, I scribbled this in reply: “Politico is a news site, but its reporters also keep active blogs.”
I didn’t think much of my response at the time. But now that I re-read my assessment, I realize it's really no wonder the site became one of my go-to sources for all things politics during this election cycle.
Well, I found that during Obama’s run, I was hungry not only for straight reporting, but also for perspectives, dialogue and active conversation. As a blogger, I developed a deep respect for the writers who posted their words online, engaged with their readers, sometimes took public lashings from the community at large, and even went to far as to make public their online contact information. People like Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic. Sam Stein of The Huffington Post.
And Ben Smith, of Politico. Who I had the fortune of conversing with, particularly on how deeply personal this election was to so many.
So naturally, his story in Politico’s glossy Presidential Inauguration magazine (which hit the stands in D.C. yesterday and is viewable online here) is also deeply personal to me.
Not so much because of my little contribution to the article, but rather because, through his writing, it’s clear that he developed a relationship with each one of the people he mentions. The stories he highlights are ones that his readers actively sent him… over the past 14 months (that boggles my mind!). Ones that his readers felt comfortable sharing with him. In part, I’m sure, because he broke down that imaginary wall between reporter/subject, thus creating thinker/thinker relationships.
Wow. In my opinion, that kind of ongoing dialogue—new to journalism—is the key to making a story truly powerful.
Can’t wait to see the magazine in print.
Washington Post: In Obama's Run, Finding A Long-Sought Sense of Acceptance
Remember last month, when Philly Daily News published my inauguration ticket request letter? Well, I still don’t have a ticket (tear)… but I do have some fun news: after it ran a Washington Post reporter contacted me requesting to profile my family – particularly for the family's “bi-racialness”, as it were.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the piece. But just a couple notes from my end: 1) My mom definitely feels the significance of Obama’s presidency, it just hasn’t hit her yet. I expect her to be sobbing on my shoulder at the inauguration. 2) My daddy woulda loved to join me in D.C. – for both the historical significance of Obama’s presidency and for his own studies (he’s a professor of political framing). So it’s not that he won’t come, but rather, because he’s a professor of political framing and will be teaching, it’s more that he quite literally can’t.
In any case, the coolest thing of all to me is the fact that journalism has become such a two-way street. From blogs posted to articles published to profiles written, there’s this new fluidity to journalism that lets us all join in on the conversation. Pretty neat stuff.
I noticed a funny thing while visiting my family in D.C. for Christmas. Simply put: every female in the house (my mom and aunt, who are African-American, and me and my cousin, who are interracial) was either involved with or married to a White man.
The truth is, the topic of interracial dating is always bubbling in the back of my mind. I went out on a limb and wrote a post about it some time ago on this blog, which got me into some deep water with a few of my readers (a disagreement that I haven’t fully resolved in my mind).
But just recently, the issue resurfaced during a conversation I had with a fellow blogger (a White male) about how personal Obama’s candidacy was to many Americans. I know, I know… interracial relationships? Obama? The two are linked, sure, but they don’t really go together. Which is what made the conversation so poignant.
My friend asked me whether or not Obama was well liked among the African-American side of my family.
Before that point, I had never thought of it as strange at all. But maybe it is. And after that, a troubling question began creeping into my mind: do some Black women hold an interracial relationship double standard?
Most Black women who I am close with approve of, and even cheer on, a Black female/White male interracial relationship. But one that’s the other way around evokes a feeling far less warm and fuzzy. For example, if Obama had been married to a White woman… eek. I’m sure we wouldn’t have been as quick to embrace him (and actually, I’ve talked with men and women of every color about this hypothetical situation, all of whom expressed a similar “cringe” - perhaps a topic for a different post).
I’ve been trying to figure out WHY this is for some time. Talking with my family has helped a bit. My aunt, who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s during Jim Crow, gave me this bit of insight:
I also spoke with my cousin a bit. She grew up in D.C. as well, only during the 80’s. She hung out with and dated Black guys, but oftentimes found that many of them were looking for something “not quite her”: long nails, thin straight hair, etc. Which is the façade that most of her female cohorts put on. But she wasn’t interested in pretending, and, interestingly, discovered that the few White guys she dated were much more eager to accept her as she was – thick bushy hair and all.
So what does this all have to do with Obama’s marriage to Michelle? He’s African-American, she’s African-American – no interracial relationship there. So why was she the reason my family members so embraced his candidacy?
Well, it’s this—a simple statement voiced by my cousin at the end of our conversation that slid all the pieces in place:
“I guess we just love men who really love Black women.”
Wow. The conversation never had anything to do with men (of any color) and everything to do with women. Black women.
So maybe we do hold a seemingly illogical but deeply personal double standard—one rooted in experiences that go back decades. From hearing about my grandmother’s experiences as a dark-skinned Black woman in the 30’s and 40’s to my aunt’s to my cousin’s to mine, I’ve grown an intense fondness for any man who appreciates a brown-skinned lady...
...and I’m half-White. Go figure.
These Inauguration Day tickets have taken on a life of their own. It’s like some Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Golden Ticket madness up in here.
A virtual friend of mine (we met through a blog – so millennial!) wrote a heartfelt letter to her senators requesting inauguration tickets… and received a pair, on the spot! That’s an impossibility today, though, because every senator and congressperson is keeping a 1,000-person wait list.
Knowing this, I decided to draft a letter of my own, send it to PA senators Specter and Casey, and also send a copy as a submission to Philly Daily News’ opinion section. And just my luck, they published my letter today!
Here’s a link to the Philly Daily News publication, and here’s a copy of the full letter.
I’m traveling to D.C. for Inauguration Day regardless of whether or not I receive a ticket to the event. My whole family lives in D.C., and I’d be remiss to miss this opportunity to witness history being made alongside my family. But still… having a ticket would be pretty sweet ☺
What are your Inauguration Day plans?
The best night of my life.
Newsflash: Obama is poised to be the first (half) African-American president of the United States of America. He’s Black! Yay! (Are we allowed to celebrate that fact yet?)
I recently attended Essence Magazine’s Woman Who Are Shaping the World Leadership Summit—an event attended nearly exclusively by African-Americans. And in this company, we as a group enjoyed what I like to call “first Black president glee”... and we enjoyed it with pride and vigor.
But conversely, I’ve found that in mixed race or predominantly White company (where I usually dwell), I feel an urgency to either dampen or gloss over said excitement. To subtly sneak it in between praise of Obama’s healthcare and tax plans. Perhaps I assume that mentioning my joy, as a single-standing issue, will prompt eye-rolls. Anger. Or worse, fear. And, judging from comments made by McCain supporter Leah Moreland on NPR’s October 24th episode of All Things Considered, perhaps I’m right.
But maybe not. Because just this weekend, I’ve read numerous stories from major news outlets discussing the historic nature of Obama’s presidential bid as it pertains to race. One piece in particular really got me: the Washington Post profiled 3 African-American voters, all of whom are over 90 years old. Here’s a clip from the article:
(P.S. That's not Arthur Greene pictured above. That's Ruth Worthy, 91, who has been canvassing for Obama once or twice a week in Washington, D.C.)
I know I support Obama for the whole package and not just the packaging. But, for better or worse, the packaging still makes a difference in this country. And these testimonies… wow. They hit me on such a deep level. A level no economic policy speech can reach.
And I know I’m not alone in this. Black people feel the pride, but I’m guessing people of other races do too. So let’s all try just being OPEN with our “first Black president glee”. We can all embrace it, because we all made it happen (or, will soon make it happen). Together.
About a week ago, I woke from my nightly slumber with a start. At the moment I couldn’t quite place my finger on the problem, but then over the next week it all became clear - in the form of a question:
What will happen if Obama loses?
The question hangs over my head every day. Outwardly it's perfectly obvious why - I've been supporting Obama's campaign for nearly two years. But there's more to it that that.
This election has drawn out a new passion in me, one that has boiled over into every aspect of my life. Over the past two years, I’ve completely immersed myself in not only the future of this country, but also in trying to figure out how this country defines me. It’s something that I had never done before—because, to be perfectly honest, from the year 2000 to just before this election season started I’ve felt nothing but a need to distance myself from the label “American”. Guffaw all you want, tell my I’m unpatriotic or that I’m not a “real” American, but I’ll tell you this: it was hard not to reject it after traveling abroad and hearing such anger/disappointment from our friends overseas, after watching my fellow citizens drown in a sea of filth as our President looked down from his plush leather Air Force One seat, after hearing of the lives lost, the trillions spent, and the lies sold on a crap war that should have never even come to pass. So yeah, maybe my disillusionment makes me a bad American or an angry Black woman or something.
Or maybe it’s given me the opportunity to define what being an American truly means to me, claim it for myself, and then believe in it. With all my heart.
So now I’m grappling with the question. The one that keeps me up at night. If November 4th comes and goes, and if (God forbid) Obama does not come out victorious, will I be able to keep my redefined America? Will my passion for this country survive? Or will it implode inside of me, leaving nothing but dead empty space and a shadow of a hope…
But then I check myself, take a deep breath, and remember what my heart’s been telling me for years: everything will be okay. That ease starts with the vote I cast a few weeks ago, lives with the images from the early voting polls, and will come full circle on November 5th when the newspapers hit the stands.
What questions are plaguing you? How are you coping with your one-week-til-election stress?
Just got back from a fun-filled weekend with friends in South Beach, Florida. Though dancing ‘til 5am was top-of-mind for me and my cohort, we kept two other current events at a high second: the ALCS and, of course, the presidential race.
We also spotted quite a few Obama signs in store windows, Obama bumper stickers (including one on a taxi cab – is that legal?), and a bonafide Obama-gear store.
On the McCain end? To our observation, no T.V. spots running (we even tuned in to Fox News… for as long as we could stomach it) and limited support signage. However, on our last vacation day, we did run into some HARDCORE McCain supporters, out in full force.
Who were these McCain fans, you wonder? Three Black supporters! Ingenious. One – an older gentleman – was clearly native African; the other two (both women) might have been African-American. Though I didn’t get a photo of them, I did obtain one of their most peculiar fliers. It got all crumpled in my bag (oops!), but I have included a photo regardless.
I’m particularly impressed with the 5th line: “Adding ‘sexual orientation’ to the definition of hate crimes”. Obama supports it, McCain opposes it. Maybe you aren’t for same-sex marriages. Ok, fine. But to be opposed to providing protection against violence directed at LGTB individuals? That’s flat-out brutal and heartless.
And, of course, the 8th line, "US Senate vote declaring English as the official language of the U.S. Government" (McCain supports, Obama opposes). How ironic - it was clear the African man who handed me this flier spoke very limited English.
Anyway, early voting in Florida begins today. So we’ll see if these three represented a larger Miami voting block… or just themselves.
Though I currently live, work and pay taxes in Boston, MA, I am still registered to vote in my home state of Pennsylvania. I plan to reside in the Philly area at some point in my life, and in the meantime I figured it’d be a smart choice to keep my PA voter registration alive and well.
Because, as we all know, Massachusetts always goes blue, and PA… well who knows. The potent mixture of conservative suburbs (mine included) surrounding the cities and a rural center always causes PA to sway back and forth like the neighborhood drunk.
So today’s the day I did my part in preventing said drunk from barfing all over our country: I sent in my absentee ballot. Give Obama a point in Lower Merion, PA! I’ll see the rest of my townsmen and women on Nov. 4th.
P.S. For all your Philly Obama supporters, he'll be visiting 4 neighborhoods tomorrow:
Change We Need Rallies
with Barack Obama
Saturday, October 11th
Funny, I never thought I’d see the day when the patrons of an entire bar shut their mouths and glue their eyes to the TV for a politician. Last night I looked around the room and saw nothing but saucers – everyone eagerly awaiting Obama’s next word.
As far as the actual speech went—well, I was really hoping to be moved to tears the way I was when Michelle and Biden spoke. In the end, though, talking family values wasn’t Obama’s mission last night (and that’s the stuff that makes me all misty-eyed). He needed to outline a clear plan for how he will make change a reality, and he did just that, point by point—from the economy to the war in Iraq to civil rights. I also thought it was really smart of him to address the “where’s the money coming from” question head-on. No dancing around the issue: his plans will take money, and he has accounted for the source of every penny.
After last night, no one can say that Obama doesn’t have clear strategies in place for executing on his dreams for this country.
On a more personal level, I found this part of his speech particularly inspiring:
The "inherent good in us all" message was one that Obama incorporated in his campaign early on, but one that I haven’t heard in recent months. I’m really glad he’s gone back to it, because this idea is truly powerful. And no one can really refute this message without sounding like a total sleaze ball naysayer.
But let me take a step back. Because last night was bigger than words.
I haven’t lived through too many “I was _____ when _____ happened” events. My parents have tons. I have a few. I was in class on my second day of college when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers. I was on the phone with my dad, listening to him say, “Ryan, turn on your T.V. immediately, you won’t believe it—all the people drowning in New Orleans are Black” when Katrina hit.
Now I have another. I was at a bar in Boston, standing next to one of my favorite people in the whole word, my heart racing, my hands clapping, my eyes sparkling, when the first African-American man accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of this country.
On Saturday morning, when Obama announced Biden as his pick for VP, I knew some Black political bloggers would raise their eyebrows. Hell, the first thing that came to my mind was, “Oh dang, Mr. Clean and Articulate?”
But then I thought back to Biden's remarks during the debates, and specifically the comment he made about Kucinich’s wife (in my opinion, one of the funniest moments in any debate this year). This guy seriously goes there. He makes all those not-quite-PC observations that everyone else in the room is thinking but would never dare to utter. And you know what? Maybe that’s ok. Because I think Biden’s ability to make honest observations based on his personal point-of-view will work wonders among working class (specifically White) voters.
The truth is, I’m actually kind of glad that Obama chose a guy who committed one of the first racial gaffes of the primaries. Biden's gaffe showed that he stereotypes a bit, that's for sure… but don’t we all? And by putting these kinds of stereotypes out in the open, we can better find, understand (and perhaps fix) the root of them.
Biden said something about Obama that other White people might have been thinking. Now Biden has the opportunity to address race on a national level. And I really hope he does. Not on a stage, in front of celebrities and politicians. But rather, in a town hall, among the Rust belt Democrats and Independents who have proven to be very concerned about Obama’s heritage. Biden’s the guy who could easily conduct a get-out-your-fears-on-race vent session.
And then, of course, turn each fear on its silly little head.
Jack and Jill Politics: Now this I like
Jezebel: Obama's VP Choice Lets Loose the Dogs of (Political) War
I remember learning of Barack Obama’s Iowa win via text message. A bunch of my oldschool friends were in town, and the news made an already tasty night even sweeter. Learning of the win “on location” (i.e. at the bar) gave us the opportunity to celebrate night right: we toasted, hugged, bounced around the restaurant excitedly and talked politics for the rest of the evening.
My generation texts everything, because texts cut the crap – good ones are short, easy to follow and, most importantly, informative. Receiving a text that says “what up” is seriously wack. But give me some news or update that I really want, and I’m all over it. I’m hungry for it.
As a digital marketer, I see corporations starting to understand the real opportunity that text messages present. Mobile coupons, text-to-wins, updates – it works if it’s done right. But so many companies are really scared of new media. They don’t trust it
So yesterday I was a bit stunned upon receiving this e-mail from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. My thoughts went a little something like this: “Announce the VP choice via text and e-mail? Seriously? He’s crazy. Oh, and that’s so ridiculously awesome, I gotta go sign up right away.”
The choice that the Obama campaign made is daring, that’s for sure. They’re putting tremendous faith in new media. But it’s funny, by using new media - my media - and as the only platform to announce such important news, I feel as though the Obama campaign is tremendous faith in me as well – which feels really good.
Because you and I both know that when I receive the VP text, I’ll shout it out all over the bar. Apparently the Obama campaign knows that too.
Washington Post: Obama Nearing a Veep Decision?