Marcus Mosiah Garvey, one of the greatest leaders of the African race, wrote this in 1923:
“I saw the injustice done to my race because it was Black and I became dissatisfied on that account. I went traveling to South and Central America and parts of the West Indies to find out if it was so elsewhere and I found the same situation. I set sail for Europe to find out if it was different there and again I found the same stumbling block — “You are Black.” I read of the conditions in America. I read Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington, and then my doom — if I may so call it — of being a race leader dawned upon me in London after I had traveled through almost half of Europe. I asked, ‘Where is the Black man’s government? Where is his king, and his kingdom? Where is his president, his country and his ambassador, his army, his navy, his men of big affairs?’ I could not find them.”
On Nov. 4, 2008, Barack Obama, son of a Kenyan, became a man of big affairs when he was elected the 44th president of the United States, the first person of African descent to be so chosen.
For African-Americans, the experience of voting for Obama was one of immeasurable emotions.
Edmund W. Gordon, John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Emeritus-Yale University, Richard March Hoe Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Education-Teachers College, Columbia University, senior scholar in residence at The College Board and co-founder of the CEJJES Institute in Rockland County, N.Y., wrote: “It is hard to express the feeling after eighty-seven years of living to be able to vote for a person of color for president of the country. Doing so with the expectation that he will win filled me with pride. Voting for a candidate who is as able as is Obama and who is married to a woman as smart as is Michelle makes my cup run over. We have been blessed.”
Many, like Valerie Rainford, managing director, Central Technology & Operations, JPMorgan Chase, thought of those long gone. “I thought of my mom and dad, who left school only after the sixth grade in the 1920s in order to work in the cotton fields of South Carolina. Oh, how I wish that they were here to witness the day, to cast their ballot! My heart overflows with emotion at the significance of the day.”
Others, like Donna Walker-Kuhne, president and CEO of Walker International Communications Group Inc., literally placed the moment in the hands of our future. “My daughter and I were at the polling booth at 8:00 a.m. She is six and I asked her to pull the lever. I am so excited I can barely breathe,” she said.
Some say that Barack Obama now “owes” the African-American community, whose struggles paved the way for his election. Yes, those struggles opened doors for Obama. We celebrate him for charging through those doors with an audacity that still leaves us breathless. No doubt because he knew what was coming, Obama told us at the very beginning that this journey is not about him, but about “us.”
Our responsibility now is to buttress him against those who would have him fail as he takes the possibilities for future generations to new heights. We owe him that. No parent puts a yoke on the neck of its child then sends the child to fight the wolves.