barack, blessing in disguise

He is too black, he is too young, he is not experienced enough, he is just a political phenomena now, he can’t hold his popularity for 2 years. . . Barack Obama a man of many talents, attributes, and ideas – mired in petty complaints and cries against his ethnicity and youth. Seeing as so many have written about Barack Obama’s potential as a presidential contender I figure I might as well jump on the bandwagon and start tooting my horn on what I think of Obama and his potential for a change in the US Africa policy. Are you ready to listen to the tune of a fast changing world? Listen to those drums, the beat goes on.

Barack Obama presents for many a great hope for America. A change in our misguided political system. A dream of beautiful coexistence. He has written two best selling books and recieved a grammy, besides gaining the support of so many common Americans. For me Obama embodies progress, he embodies the advancement for all people to finally become equal, he represents the dreams and hopes of a country torn in so many social and political directions. Many see his youth and political inexperience as a downfall – I see it as his greatest attribute. We are not a country of large, old, white men. We are a country of young movers and shakers. If the old graying white men can no longer stand up for what they believe in and what the people believe in, then maybe it is time for them to step down! Obama can and does bring a new and refreshing perspective on American politics and problems. He is now mostly an outsider and sometimes that is what we need most when we cannot recognize our own faults and short-comings.

Hillary Clinton, now the front-runner in bidding for the democratic candidacy, recently was interviewed by NPR. In her interview she stated that she did not believe that he could keep up his popularity for 2 years until the election. To paraphrase what she said, Obama represnts a dream that has yet to collide with harsh reality. She understands that he represents the aspirations of many Americans, but she says there is no way he can sustain expectations and the media scrutiny has yet to bring Obama back to earth. I am not so sure what she represents for me or what she will even be able to do for me, but for the time being Obama embodies my ideals and passions more than anyone who looks like me, a privileged, white male.

Barack Obama also represents a great hope for Africa. In a previous post I noted the growing popularity of Obama and his dedication to Africa with his ‘Africa Tour’. If America ever does elect a president with black and African heritage, I can see a great turnaround for the US Africa Policy. Currently it is in the state of sheets of paper and statments – no action. Many Africans wrote on the BBC ‘Have your say’ piece that no matter what color his skin is he is still American, so Africa is still at a loss. Some noted that skin color has no bearing on whether you are good for Africa or not, it is no factor in raising support for Africa. Others note that there are numerous Africans in high US goverment positions and they have done nothing substantial for Africa (ie: Powell, Rice). However, I feel with Obama’s current support of Africa and his heritage in Kenya that he will create a big change and shift in at least a reformed Africa policy. Another important issues to take note of is Obama’s ethnicity. He is not black, he is not African-American. He is an American born of a Kenyan father and American mother. He is a mix of ethnicities just as the majority of people are today.

Along with all this talk on progress and Kenya comes the World Social Forum in Nairobi. Over 80,000 delegats from all over the world will convene to address a wide spectrum of social problems facing the world, including a focus on African issues. This year is focused on the issues faced by deprived Africans. The forum started with a march, which began in the large Kibera slum of central Nairobi. Progressive movements are growing all over the world and in this case Africa. The World Social Forum describes itself as a platform for ordinary people to exchange ideas opposed to a world dominated by capitalism and imperialism. In keeping with an organization opposed to prescriptive solutions to the challenges facing the world, the multitude of meetings and activities are what is called “self-organised”. People are the solution to all the world’s problems, no large plan for positive change will ever work. Do you believe in equality? Do you believe in equal rights for all people? Are you acting progressively?

its MLK day . . . what will you do tomorrow?

Safely home finally from the National Summit for my fellowship with Young People For and the closing statements are still ringing in my ears. The only female and ‘african-american’ representative from Minnesota reminded the fellows that progress goes only as far as you are willing to take it. Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day – we engage in community service, leadership conferences, and remember the amazing contributions of a person who most would agree was more than an ordinary man. What that is, isn’t so easy to define.

Today at the last day of the National Summit I experienced an incredible energy. Our last session with our state groups we joined in a circle, holding hands, and spoke of our inspirations. The human contact and the energy of those few fellows was nearly overwhelming, no joke. The closing ceremonies and wrap-ups were just as powerful. The energy and fire in the hand of lady liberty was replicated and immensly intensified by the fire of passion in that auditorium of the NEA.

The power and passion and energy in that final session was overwhelming. And through all the speakers and fellows speaking I was so impassioned that and my own energy was so built up that I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream and release this fire. I looked around the auditorium and I saw the future of America, I saw the future of our world. I saw the future because I know that I will see everyone of the fellows later in life – holding an office or running a progressive movement organization. I know that I will see everyone with great leadership roles in the future changing the future of America with passion!

I remember the CEO of YP4 bringing up Kennedy’s speech in South Africa, talking about the ripple effect of each person and as more people join on the ripples grow. Each person has the potential to make a difference in the world, we just need to decide what kind of a difference we will make and further joined with one another we can make a huge difference. We are the tsunami of change that this country and world is waiting for. We will wash out the halls of government where stagnation is unbearable. We will clear the minds of those who have forgotten the ideals that our great country is founded upon and we will instill a belief in equal rights for all people. There will not be enough buckets for the extreme right to bail out of the hole they have dug. Progress will soar to the fore-front and our actions will defeat the opposition’s rhetoric.

To paraphrase something a fellow said during a fishbowl, “we walk not because we are heading to a promised land, but we walk because it is progress. . .” Last night I stood on the Lincoln Memorial steps where Martin Luther King Jr. stood to deliver his speech on civil rights. It was an amazing site, looking out on the reflecting pool and the surrounding area, imagining a mass of people filling the the steps and surrounding area to a breaking point, and dreaming of the day when the next great progressive leader will deliver a speech to re-invigorate and enlighten America. After this MLK day join the walk, step by step we will bring back the progressive ideals that appeal to all people. What will you do tomorrow?