This is a remarkable evening. I believe we are in the beginning of a new era as Americans. I’ve cried several times over-joyed by this historic moment. Fifty years ago this was unthinkable, parts of America denied Blacks the right to vote. Forty years ago, this was still unthinkable as America’s cities exploded in riots following the death of Martin Luther King Jr. Thirty years ago, this was unthinkable, as most Black Americans were still grappling with the legacies of Jim Crow and the disproportional effects of the deindustrialization of our inner cities. Twenty years ago, the idea of a Black man in the White house was a joke. It was a cruel joke about the pervasiveness of social inequality and racial prejudice in American society. Even when this campaign started, I thought it was a long shot. I was overseas when Barack Obama secured the nomination for the Democratic Party.
Obama’s victory is not just for the Black community, but all Americans. And it is clear that Americans from all walks of life believed in what he represented. But I wanted to focus on what he means for the Black community. I wanted to put his victory in the context of struggles my ancestors and the injustices experienced. I’m thinking about how Frederick Douglass, Sojourney Truth, George Washington Carvery, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Clayton Powell, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Thurgood Marshall, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, and so many other unnamed great Black thinkers and pioneers would feel about this moment. Without doubt, they would be overjoyed. This night would have likely seemed like a fantasy for them. I voted for Obama because he represents that legacy. I voted for him because I believed that he was the most capable of making the necessary changes within the political field. Don’t get me wrong, I do not think he is the messiah Nor do I think that the institutionalized racism that has been embedded in American society for so long will be erased due to his presidency. But rather, his presidency represents hope that we can overcome those boundaries.
We face many challenges to ensure that America makes good on her promises. Americans of all races, genders, orientations, faiths, and ages have been inspired. I believe the Black national anthem is true for all of us. If I could sing, I’d sing it celebrating the this victorious moment by singing the Black National Anthem.
Lift every voice and sing, till earth and Heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise, high as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat, have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered;
Out from the gloomy past, till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might, led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee.
Lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee.
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, may we forever stand,
True to our God, true to our native land.
And still we rise…