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-The Five Spot

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Obama Effect

So I work with kids. And I go into a lot of DC Public Schools located deep in the hood. These schools are filled with little Black children, living, breathing the stereotype or the reality – depending on whom you ask. Products of single parent homes. Recipients of school breakfast. Lack of subject-noun agreement. Etcetera, etcetera.

And I go into these schools and the first thing I notice are: life size Obama cutouts in the front hallway, or Obama posters hanging on the wall or in classrooms, or Obama calendars, or teachers wearing Obama t-shirts. One day I asked a little girl what she learned in school and she said, “We learned about Obama.” For the whole day, I wanted to ask. But I left it alone and just smiled.

Last weekend I took the girls camping and one group named themselves the second ladies. Why the second ladies? Because they love our first lady soo much and they wanna be just like her and to do this, they know they need an education. Well alright! Go head y'all! I love it!

Being a witness to all of this is truly awesome. Since I don’t have kids, I didn’t fully comprehend what Obama winning could and would truly mean. That is until I saw a message from NAACP President Ben Jealous and he said that now the only thing his two year old child will know is a Black President. That will be her norm. Her reality. Powerful stuff. I recently heard on the radio that marriages are up in the Black community and they’re citing the Obamas as the reason. Wow. Totally awesome.

I suppose that since I grew up in a two parent, middle class family, surrounded by other Black professionals, married couples, folk who pushed us to be educated – the Obamas were my norm. What we’re supposed to be. And I now realize for too many of us – they are an anomaly. A Hayley’s comet. Something talked about, but rarely seen. But now here they are, on our television screens, on our radios, going to shows and schools, in living color, a tangible example of how you can climb the ladder of success with hard work and determination.

All this the ‘Obamas are our beacons’ had me feeling good about the future of our race. What we could become. And then my car got stolen. By some people who live in the same neighborhood where I serve and work with "lower income" girls, to help them build courage, confidence and character. And I screamed out, “I hate Black people!!” And then I thought back to that old Chris Rock stand up and revised my statement and screamed, “No, I hate nyggas!”

And then reality settled in. The Obamas are just two people with a lot of stuff on their plate – and while they may serve as examples, beacons of light to millions of little black children – they can’t do it all. I mean that’s quite a burden. And while I’m glad that they are inspiring a generation and hopefully we’ll see the results in the upcoming decades – I know we still have a lot of work to do. On us. I mean clearly the Obama angel was not sitting on the shoulders of the folk who stole my car.

Inspiration, I suppose can be hit or miss. Or misinterpreted. Or be horribly abused. I mean never should I hear a song about Obamas and rims in the same sentence. And so this makes me think back to W.E.B. Dubois’ theory of the Talented Tenth. Now, I know this makes some folk groan and cringe because they see it as a bourgeoisie type thing. But I see the power of what can happen when you show people that there is another way. That education has power. That working and hard work is noble. That marriage is beautiful. That the way they’re living doesn’t have to be the way it is. It’s what happens when I take 80 girls from the hood camping. And the girls' leaders are college students at local universities (some who come from these same neighborhoods) and can let them know that there are endless possibilities beyond their neighborhood block.

And so I think that we can each do our part. We can be second, third, fourth and fifth ladies in our communities. We can be Commander in Chiefs in our hood. We can model values of great parenting, getting an education, being a committed spouse. Not in a condescending, this is what’s good for you, type of way. But in a let's support each other, encourage, and build a better community, which leads to a better society, type of way.

Because all these kids aren't going to meet the Obamas, but they might meet a Johnson family with two layer parents and two adorable, intelligent girls; or a Wilson couple who's been married for 50 years; or a Dr. Tyson who attended an HBCU; or a Mrs. Stephens who owns her own buisness. And there's power in that. This too might change their lives. Might impact their future. Might inspire them to take another path. And so whilst I’m done crying over my missing car, I’ll return back to the hood, back to my kids who love being in my organization because of all it has to offer, back to my schools where another smiling Obama poster or a cut out will welcome me at the front door. And I’ll smile back. And get to work.

That’s my time y’all! Happy Rum Punch Friday!


Intrepidblackman said...

Where to start...I admire your fortitude for not being permanently discouraged after your car got stolen. That's a hard thing to pull off. I work with a group of African American men who mentor African American boys in southeast DC. These boys are 1st and 2nd graders and they are hyped on Obama too. They love saying it, OBA-MA. They are always reminding me that he is the President.

After two years of working with these boys it is very clear that there is a tug of war going on. On one end their school, mentors like my guys, various enrichment programs, are pulling one way. Pulling the other way is simply what they see on a day to day basis. One little boy I drop off at his apartment where I walk him through group of drug dealers (I assume they are not waiting for a bus) to his mom.

OBA-MA helps us all pull in the right direction

cinco said...

I'm glad the Obama's are able to inspire so many. I, like you am myself a professional; I come from a family as well as extended family of educated professionals; and hard working blue collar families. All of whom took care of their families and their obligations. There are too many Blacks that are unwilling/unable to change, to improve their lives. According to recent headlines many don't give a damn about any thing or anybody; no morals and no common sense. It's a tragedy; but the bigger tragedy is the level of nonchalant, complacent people that sit back and do nothing to make a difference in this world.