Election Day, 2008. What a day! Like most of you, I got up in the morning with a sense of great anticipation. Something momentous was taking place in our country, and in our world. Like so many voters, I got up early hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait 3 hours to vote. Even if I did have to wait, I would have done it. As I walked to P.S 158 (the elementary school I attended some twenty-something years ago) I thought about what this election means for me, my family, and the church. The world was about to change, so I had better take some time to prepare myself for it.
As I walked into the old gym that I used to run relay races in, I saw old faces and new ones. I walked to the first table to find where my station was and saw Mrs. Guess volunteering. Mrs. Guess has lived up the block from me and was my grandmother’s neighbor for over 30 years. Here’s how our short conversation went:
Me: Mother Guess! How’s it going?
MG: Great darling, it’s so good to see you. We’ve waited way too long for this day!
Me: Yes We Can!
MG: Hallelujah!!! Actually, I’m not supposed to say that, but go to station 63.
Me: Ok Thanks!
As I walked to the station, I chuckled a bit. But I began to realize the significance of this day for the African-American community. As I surveyed the gym (which looks so much smaller now) I observed that I was the only Latino about to vote. For a moment, I felt a bit disheartened. But that thought was quickly forgotten when I met another person. I think he was a volunteer, although I didn’t know for sure. Here’s how our conversation went:
Brother in the Gym: Wassup brother! (As his head nodded and smiled at me)
Me: Hey man (I responded with my own Brooklyn head nod and smile)
Brother in the Gym: You know what to do! (I think he winked, but he kept smiling)
Me: Yes We Can! (Then I gave him a pound…for all you urban outsiders, that means I gave him a fancy handshake)
I proceeded to cast my vote and walk out the gym that I had so many fond memories of and went immediately on cnn.com hoping to hear the latest. After work, I went to my Tuesday night class and there was a buzz in the room. Something significant was taking place. After class ended I jumped on the C train with haste and eavesdropped into conversations on the train between perfect strangers. Three older black men were talking about which candidate was up on the polls and for a brief moment I wanted to join their conversation. As I nodded and smiled at them (trying to get them to invite me into the conversation) I realized it was my stop. I jumped out the train and walked like those speed walkers in the Olympics. I’m sure that wasn’t a good look, especially in East New York.
As I got home my attention was fixed on the screen and in a matter of moments, the country voted in our next president. I have to say, I was in awe of the moment. The feel in NYC was like a combination of New Years Eve, the Mets and Yankees winning the World Series and getting another stimulus check in the mail.
In my neighborhood they started shooting! Rosie got a bit nervous and asked if those were gunshots. I said, “Yes baby, but those are celebratory shots! They’re just happy. You gotta know the difference.” I think she was still nervous.
I stood up until 2am trying to process what had just happened. The world was about to change, so I had better take some time to prepare myself for it.
***In my next blog entry, I’ll address some of the implications that I see in this historic shift in our country’s history***