As I reflect on the presidency of Barack Obama, I think back to the night of his first election. I was at a watch party in my community and the energy was electric. There tears, high-fives, and thank you Jesuses. A few of us sorta basked in what seemed like a surreal moment (much like the 2016 election.)
I immediately went home and wrote two poems. They have very different tones; they are below:
It’s Still America on November 4, 2008
A moment in history;
a modern day miracle.
But amidst all the excitement
I can’t help but be cynical.
It’s hard to believe that we’ll have a black president
in the same slave nation where Jena 6 still exists.
Behind the window where my principal sits,
a confederate flag is a reminder of this.
Though we’ve sang cumbayas and marched melodic miles,
and our blood pumps in the heart of this land,
and we may have dreams of rainbow coalitions,
And chant to the hills, YES WE CAN!
Racism is the ink that the declaration was signed with
the same pen that wrote us in as three-fifths
in the same hand that lifts the unjust gavel
and brings it down on the brown; less time for sand than gravel.
As this thing unravels,
we’ll see how ready this country really is.
To think that we are is a tough pill too swallow,
cuz I still can’t walk into most department stores and not get followed.
Maybe tomorrow; maybe then it’ll all make sense
when we officially have a black president.
Maybe a school in little Haiti will be on par with South Beach.
Maybe the price for college won’t be so far out of reach.
Maybe along with his eloquent speech and elegant smiling
will come an end to racial profiling.
Maybe we’ll see more computers and books
than crack vials and pistols.
And maybe you’ll make Marvin’s rendition of the Anthem official.
And hope your reflexes are good, so the bullets and arrows miss you.
But after all the tears and tissue and cause to celebrate,
It’s still America on November 4, 2008.
And the other…
This Victory, That Dream
On November 4th, 2008
Barack Obama was elected president of these United States.
Ahhh, this victory;
Breaking the cruel chains of history.
Putting ointment on open wounds of misery
that seemingly would never heal.
Allowing an entire people to see hope manifested,
returns on tears and pain and blood invested.
Every unheard voice can now attest it:
the American dream is real.
The dream of those centuries ago
who stepped unsure foot on foreign soil.
The dream of those that we will never know
who built this nation with tormented toil.
The dream of those who sought this place
for its promise of possibility,
from different shores, from every race
in search of true civility.
America has “regained” her nobility
and now adorns a crown of unfettered possibility
that was echoed in that mountaintop dream.
A dream that has awakened
and taken the reins from injustice and inequality
and handed them to pipe dreams and utopian notions.
A dream that has grabbed the white hand
and the black hand
and brown hand and
Walked them down that mountain to a land of whens –
Severed are the ties that bound us
and before us are boundless dreams
that now seem attainable –
that ribbon in the sky within reach of our fingertips;
that fountain of youth wetting our lips;
slaying dragons atop pillowy clouds;
believing you are American and saying it loud.
How’d we get here?
Not by dreaming alone,
but by doing the work of the dreamers long gone.
We are that dream’s reality at work; we are that song.
We are the belief in which the believers kept believing,
and we honor them when we keep on dreaming
and leaning on the everlasting principles of hope.
For hope is that last remaining ember of a once raging blaze;
It is the enduring symbol of all but forgotten days.
Because it’s hard to remember the past
when your present seems so grim,
and your future looks so bleak;
when the light of the world seems to dim,
and you don’t have the voice to speak
You can still hope.
Even when it’s irrational,
and cynicism seems more natural,
and every fiber of your being says, “it can’t get no better,”
you can still hope for the day
when the winds of change will blow your way,
and you no longer have to suffer or settle.
It is known what happens to a dream deferred
under the heat of an unforgiving Sun.
But defer your dream no more; live hope undeterred,
because we make the dream a living one.
One that has blown a breath of renewal into the lungs of the world.
One that has remapped futures and rerouted destinies.
One that allows mirror reflections of me to say,
“I can be what I want as long as I give the best of me.”
Let the lesson be, not that the dream is over and we’ve awakened in a blissful place,
but that the dream invigorates us to continue the race.
For life is a marathon, this victory a second wind;
Be now powered with the possibility that we can make it to the end.