Obama at Manifest Hope Gallery

Obama Art at Manifest Hope Gallery in Denver


I gotta testify, come up in the spot looking extra fly
‘Fore the day I die, I’mma touch the sky
[...]
Sky, Sky high
I’m, I’m sky high
Yeah! (Keep it rolling)
(Feels good to be home, baby! Feels good to be home!)

– Kanye West, “Touch the Sky”

I couldn’t get into the party where Kanye played here in Denver but this song was running through my mind when I first woke. Damn, I’m tearing up just writing this. I don’t even have the words to describe my emotions after Barack Obama’s speech — hearing the stirring music, seeing Michelle Obama and the girls join him on stage, hearing the fireworks explode overhead matching the explosion in my heart.

Sky high.

It’s hard to describe what it’s like to grow up and live your life knowing that there are a few people out there who want to hurt or kill you not because of anything you’ve done to them but because of what you look like. Because you exist. You hear as a kid that anyone can grow up to be president and as you get older, that ideal gets burned away by that job or promotion you didn’t get or the 5 empty taxis that wouldn’t stop or the shop clerk eyeing you suspiciously, the woman clutching her purse tighter as you pass her on the street dressed in a suit and so on. The little and the big things that diminish the American Dream. Barack Obama restores the American Dream in a way that John McCain, son of privilege, never could. And he fulfills Martin Luther King’s dream that a child of God living in America might someday be judged for the content of his character and not the color of his skin.

“Let us keep that promise — that American promise — and in the Scripture hold firmly, without wavering, to the hope that we confess.”

– Barack Obama, from his acceptance speech

And if there’s one small critique I have, it’s that there might have been a stronger theme and clearer image tied to the American Dream paired with Martin Luther King’s dream. The references to Martin Luther King and the support of Dr. King’s son Martin Luther King III and daughter Bernice King on stage were incredibly moving. On one of many bus rides in Denver, a smug middle aged white woman glimpsed MLK and BO together on the tee shirt of a black woman much older and said: “You know, Martin Luther King was a Republican.”

I admit I kinda went off on her. She tried to defend her statement saying “Well, no one can know for certain which party he would support today.” I disagreed. I gave her some historical facts and quotes from King’s philosophy (I read several of his books from my father’s library as a girl) to make it clear that in no way would Dr. King support the platform of the Republican party today. In fact, while Dr. King’s father was a registered Republican and endorsed Richard Nixon, MLK Jr. made no endorsement. In October 1960, when Martin Luther King, Jr. was arrested at a peaceful sit-in in Atlanta, Robert Kennedy telephoned the judge and helped secure King’s release. As a result, Dr. King Sr. switched his allegiance to JFK. There is something Kennedy-esque about Obama. It sickens me that the Republican party that switched within a generation from being the progressive party to being the conservative party would slick over their hateful policies through the false implication that King would support them.

Dr. King supported peace and not war. Dr. King worked to benefit the lives of the poor rather than cut the taxes of the rich. Dr. King worked tirelessly for equal access and opportunity for all, not a few to the basic human needs of healthcare, housing, education and livelihood. Dr. King would be committed to ensuring that climate change does not destroy the earth. Here’s the video from Invesco Field of Martin Luther King III who said, “My father would be so proud of Barack Obama.” My grandfather, reformed Republican and son of a slave, would have been mighty proud too.

On what MLK would say about Obama today, someone who knew him personally said yesterday before Obama’s speech:

“I really don’t know what he’d say,” said Georgia Rep. John Lewis, when asked what civil rights icon King would say were he alive today. “But I think he’d say ‘hallelujah.’”

Lewis is the last living person who spoke at the MLK march.

The energy here in Denver generally was hopeful but also impatient. Agitated. It is not just the nation but the entire earth that needs America to make the right decision this go-round. As MLK would say, the enormous challenges — and the opportunities — we face are “Why We Can’t Wait“.

I ain’t waitin’. I’m workin’. What about you?

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