A New Kind Of Hope

When I visited my relatives in the D.C. (Deep Country) areas of South Carolina, one thing I always noticed when I was younger was that in practically every shotgun hovel, cinder block house, and mobile home we went to, they all had three things in common:

A picture of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesus Christ (the long haired white version).


Hope and liberation.


So last week, Thanksgiving found me back in the D.C., back in the heart of the same territory my relatives have inhabited for generations. The contingent that had migrated to New York and Philadelphia and the real D.C. had descended upon my aunt’s house, as usual, to break bread with one another and give thanks with their family.

It is amazing what urban living could do to your northern kin folk, people who shared the same DNA you had, who grew up picking cotton and cropping tobacco in the same fields with your parents when they were all children. The city folks seemed to have become more alert, more aware, with sharpened reflexes and keener eyes.

This year, though, everybody, southerners and northerners alike, seemed to radiate the same dialed in vibe, the same level of hyperkinetic energy just under the skin. It was as if no one could wait to express how excited they were that Barack Obama had become the next president.

The regular greetings - “hey, how you doing? Everybody doing okay? You look like you haven’t been missing any meals” – were truncated, with a big pause after “hey, how you doing?” that led right into “I just feel so good”.

A distant aunt from New York, sixty something years young, upright and spry in an athletic outfit, was circulating among us, giving each of us a hug and a calendar. “These are all over Brooklyn.” she said as she handed me and the gaggle of cousins around me calendars with a fuzzy picture of Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha Obama superimposed over the presidential seal.

I recounted the hope and liberation story to my brother later as we traveled to another house full of relatives we hadn’t seen in a year. “You know,” I said to him as we motored along a network of impossibly dark country roads, “I guess all those Kennedy pictures will be coming down soon. Gonna have to make room for a new kind of hope.”


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3 comments:

Melinda said...

Brown Man, I can testify that this isn't just happening in Black families. Rest assured that many of us who are melanin-impoverished are also sharing sparkly-eyed smiles, extra hugs, cheerful greetings and knowing shakes-of-the-head these days. ("These days" being post-November 4th.)

I live in a neighborhood that is mostly Republican-voting, but even some of *them* are expressing hope and optimism to me about Obama!

It is a New Day in America; even in my mostly-White, mostly-Republican slice of America that is in Texas! Obama-supporters come in all sizes, shapes and colors (as you well know) and it is wonderful to greet one another these days. We all seem to be walking taller, talking louder, laughing more freely.

It's all sinking in: We won. The primaries are past. The election is history. The work is at hand and we're going to figure it out together. There's a good leader moving into the White House, and he represents us in a way that most of us have not felt represented in a long, long time. Maybe not ever.

Brown Man said...

I live in Republican land too - the first few days were a little awkward, but lately, I've been noticing that the people I see every day are kind of cheering ME on a little bit, being extra solicitous with life's little courtesies, even though they have no idea who I am.

And if my brown brethren will join me in a chorus here, it was white America that provided the overwhelming majority of his votes.

I will be glad, though, when I can sit at a bar and not have to listen to some guy come up and tell me how great he thinks Obama's election is for the country and how we see race, when all I want to do is relax. Although I'll be a trooper until then, calmly fielding his questions until he notices that my food is getting cold.

Sheeit - I wouldn't trade this for Oprah's money!

RiPPa said...

You know, I recently saw where Obama collectible plates were being advertised on TV. The thought occurred to me that I need to purchase one. Somehow, the thought of me eating that sodium laden heart disease express food I eat on an Obama plate with his smiling face gives me hope and joy. If I keel over and die from a heart attack, at least the last thing I'd see would be the smiling pearly whites of Black Jesus himself.

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