Beforeword: I was searching through email for something and came across this message. At the time, I had just moved to NY for work. On the day I wrote this email, I was sitting on the cusp of history being changed and didn’t know it …
Last Thursday, after a day of trekking through New York City, it was a welcomed relief to be sitting—anywhere really—just to be sitting. So I was sitting in the waiting area of Penn Station awaiting the Long Island Rail Road train. I happened to sit beside an older gentleman, I’d say late 60’s, with eyes transfixed to the muted television screen.
As soon as I sat, I set aside the book I was most recently devouring, “Things My Father Taught Me” by Barack Obama. (I’ve picked up my reading now with all these train rides and waiting areas.) I followed his gaze, already knowing he, along with just about everyone else in the waiting area—young and old, male and female, all of various ethnic backgrounds—were watching the precursor to Barack Obama’s speech on accepting the Democratic nomination to run as President of the USA.
That News Network was not the only station showing in the waiting area. But, it was the one that grasped the travelers in the waiting area last Thursday and held their attention captive though they had to read the words scrolling across the small screen hanging high above their heads.
Then, almost inaudibly, three words escaped the lips of the older gentleman beside me: “What a day …”, I am sure whispered to himself. I was feeling the depth of his emotions myself and I retorted: “What a day”. Three words that implied a lifetime of hoping and wanting, and so began our short dialogue.
Now I can see his eyes and they are brimming over with tears, but he’s dignified—this older African-American gentleman—and he holds the tears in check. But he allows his pride and happiness to burst through as he shares how this day made him feel.
It’s 45 years to the day since Dr King delivered his immortal “I Have A Dream” speech with its call for racial equality and equity and justice. And this gentleman recalls that momentous day and he can hardly believe that in his lifetime a black man has been nominated to run as President of the United States of America. And the multi-ethnic gathering below the TV screen at Penn Station was but a microcosm of society. Because, as the evening progressed I listened to men and women of the highest political strata sing the praise of a man—someone like me—who had been denied full political, socio-economic, civic participation for so long, and he was not the token black man. And I saw a mix of races and ethnicities waving “Obama” placards and over and over I say to myself: “they are all cheering for someone like me!”
Soon it was time to leave the waiting area of Penn Station. I rushed amidst the sea of faces to track 21 of the LIRR heading home with one thing on my mind—listening to Barack’s speech. Barack acknowledged that he is standing on the shoulders of Dr King and the thousand other black women, men and youth who were lynched, raped, mutilated and denied. He didn’t play the “race card”, should he have? Does it matter that he did not say “black” or “African-American” once? And I noticed that he did use the “gender card”.
RACE and GENDER—racism and sexism—two of the schisms that have ripped our humanity apart and have been the focus of my studies and work.
I mulled over the issue of race and racism long after Barack’s speech ended. And I took an introspective look back at myself—someone who has grown into accepting my blackness as the most intricate part of my identity and who no longer has the need to forcibly demonstrate what this means such as wielding a bible with all its characters painted black (oh yes I DID, back in the day).
To be a part of this history; to be in the USA at “such a time as this” is exhilarating and liberating. So I taped the speech and I took pictures. It’s as if I was that gentleman in the waiting area at Penn Station, and I AM! Connected to him by the collective trauma caused from the assault on our bodies and our psyche because of the shade of our skin. This links us in ‘humanhood’—past, present and future—forever.
This made me ponder: what happens to a dream deferred? In the words of Langston Hughes:
Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore and then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
MY ANSWER: NO! A dream deferred comes full circle!!
Thank you for reading! Follow the blog here👈 for more.In creative solidarity, Dee