Tuesday, January 20, 2009
A new era has dawned! Change is here!!! Finally! There is a Black President in the White House. And not just any man! What a Man! Someone to look up to. At last there is someone of whom I can feel proud and supportive. It's been a Loooonnnnng eight years and we have waited a Loooooonnng time for this moment. I awoke this morning to the awareness that this was going to be a day like no other. It is said that one will always remember where one was when Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States and for me the response will be "all alone at home in my flat at High Holborn". In a way, it is great that my stay in London will be immortalized through this historic event and I could not have felt more proud to be an American in London as my eyes teared up frequently while watching the goings-on at Pennsylvania Avenue. Never in my lifetime did I ever imagine that I would see a Black President in America.
This is the culmination of a long journey--one that began on those infamous ships that traced the Middle Passage carrying human cargo. One that continued on those bloody plantations of Virginia and South Carolina. One that revolted on the non-violent streets of Alabama in the 1960s. One whose struggle was given voice in those stirring words, "I have a Dream"--a dream that became reality today as Black people can now claim their place in American History not as African-Americans but as Americans.
This is a man I can look up to because he does not come with an impressive pedigree preceded by a dynasty that allowed him to be raised in the lap of luxury. This is a man with whose background, in so many ways, I can truly identify: a man born of an immigrant father whose struggle in his early days in America led him to bus tables in a restaurant. A man whose very father abandoned him when he was six so that he grew up without the influence of this male role model. This is a man who did not allow that absence in his life to hold him down or tear him apart. This is a man who used no family connnections, no Godfathers...nothing but his determination to succeed--his audacity--to take him to Harvard and then on to Congress. This is a man who was rasied by a single parent--a mother who wished him to have nothing but the finest education (which led her to send him to live with his grandmother in Hawai'i to study at the fabulous Punahou High School in Honolulu) and by a grandmother for whom he was not a grandson but a son itself. As someone whose daughter was co-raised by a grandmother, my eyes swim when I think of how cruel fate was in not allowing the gracious Madeline to watch as her beloved grandson assumed the oath of Office of President of the United States of America.
Given the time lag, I began watching BBC coverage at 4 pm local London time which was 11 am in Washington DC. Of course, being the BBC they pulled no punches when commenting on America's outgoing President and took a few good jabs at a man whom I will always remember with loathing. I could not wait to see the last of him and to know that he is being replaced by a man of such sterling quality is beyond heartening. I had considered joining my American students and even getting together with my American colleague Karen to watch the historic coverage. But Karen was busy and I figured that I'd really be most comfortable in my sweats and my slippers lounging around on my couch in my living room and taking it all in with total ease.
My day began with my 10 am Global Cultures Class which has a total enrollment of 2 students. They were delighted when I informed them that the course would be taught as an Independent Study Module and through Tutorials in true British style. I packed them off with a long reading list, tons of photocopied material to get them started on their research and a list of films to watch. I spent a while photocopying more material, then an hour later, I left for the British Museum where I had lunch plans with Loulou Cooke, a lovely English lady with whom I had made friends a few weeks ago. Since I was early, I spent an hour in Room I completing the exhibit on 'The Enlightenment' that I had started watching several months ago but had to abandon when plantar fasicitis hit me.
At 1.00 pm, I arrived at the main gate of the British Museum and was joined a few minutes later by Loulou. We adjourned to the Museum Tavern, a lovely historic pub that is located bang opposite the museum, a pub which Karl Marx once frequented. Over fish and chips and a half pint of Strongbow cider, Loulou and I got to know a little more about each other and discovered that we have a lot in common including daughters who both love acting and who are working in New York City.
Loulou and I walked back home after lunch. We parted company at the Holborn Library where I stopped to pick up paperback copies of Harry Potter as I am determined to read all the novels in the next few months. Fortunately for me, both the first and the second titles in the series were available and I was able to bring them home. Though I had read the first one a long time ago, I figured I would start at the beginning and go right through the series. Tim and Barabra have lent me three more of the books--all hardbound--so I have my reading cut out for me. Back at home, I decided to take a bit of rest as I still don't feel too well. Crocin is suppressing my flu-like symptoms and after months--and probably for the first time since I arrived in London--I actually took a short afternoon nap.
Then, it was 4 pm and I became glued to the telly as I watched history being made. I sent an email to Llew, Chriselle and Chris in order to feel part of the jubilant spirit of the nation and of the American people on this day--and all three of them communicated back with me so that, across the pond, we were truly united on this red-letter day in America.