Years from now, when the inevitable question is asked, “where were you and what do you remember about the day that Black, Brown and young voters changed the face of America by electing its first African American President, I will recall my amazement at standing in a line that stretched seeming forever in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and my overwhelmed emotions at seeing those two young Black women entering a voting booth for the first time in their lives.
It was a beautiful, warm sunny day when I walked up the block on November 4th to proudly give Barack Obama my vote toward what I hoped would be his victory. It was mid-morning and I had assumed I had missed the wanted-to- be-first-in-line and pre-work voters’ rush. My heart jumped when I saw the beginnings of a line that I soon learned snaked around the block, and had done so since before the polls opened. Never had I seen anything close to this; not during the excitement of the Hillary/Obama primary or the hopeful turnout for Gore versus W.
Getting on the subway, standing at the dangerous traffic intersection on my block and the check-out at the neighborhood supermarket, I’d witnessed daily the low tolerance in my hood for lines and waiting – unless, of course, it was for a free concert by Brooklyn neo-fav Erykah Badu. But things on this line were beyond mellow with cells phones on fire with the buzz, and Obama shout-outs and honking horns from vans and cars passing by the line.
A once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of history –not just for America but the world –was the mode of the day.
Watching the elderly Black women coming to vote on frail legs supported by walkers, canes and the kindness of strangers — the look of decades of struggle and broken dreams finally vindicated etched on their faces — brought tears to my eyes. My mother was a sister to these Black women who no doubt were proudly coming out to voting places across America, determined to make their lifelong wishful dreams a reality. No race advocate for sure, my mother has seen a lot in her 85 years, and had enthusiastically followed the drama of Obama’s run from the beginning. She had been so happy to have gotten her ballot in the mail in the nick of time to have her vote count.
I never had been happier in my Blackness.
And among the expected white and Black, older, middle-aged and college folks on line, there were all the young sisters and the young brothers, baggy jeans, baseball caps worn backwards and all! Lil’ Wayne -loving brothers proudly standing in line with their children. All there to vote!
Something strong and wonderful was indeed happening on this day!
Inside the old high school which serves as the neighborhood’s voting spot — at the end of that long snaking line – the two young Black women (in their late teens I guessed) stood outside the curtained voting booth, excited, nervous and obviously proud about what they were about to do. The first, beaming and confidant, looked around, as if to savor her virgin voting experience, and then entered the booth and pulled the curtain closed. She reappeared moments later, greeted by spontaneous applause and shouts of congratulations from voters and poll workers nearby.
Her anxious energy too much to control, the second young sister spun and paced as she waited her turn. Uncertain about how exactly to cast her vote once behind the curtain, she was relieved to receive how-to instructions from a middle-aged white woman also waiting her turn to vote. With a hug of support from her girlfriend, she jumped into the booth. She too was greeted by applause when she exited, after having joined the more than 13 million first time voters who helped make this day historic in so many ways.
And for the second time that morning — on the day Barack Hussein Obama II was elected the forty-fourth President of the United States — my heart swelled and tears filled my eyes.