Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Revelation

"I had a thought that I could change a thing that was not real. I shared with it my space and my time, but oh how sad it made me feel...."
(A Revelation by Doug and Jean Carne)
For years I have lamented having been spat out of Liberia, West Africa, a country that I had planned to make my home. I just couldn’t understand why we had been unable to live in Sweet Liberia, in peace and replant our generational seeds on African soil. It was a pain that I bore silently for eighteen years, the way one bears the burden of crushed dreams. I suffered in silence while I raised my five children into adulthood and rationalized that our flight from wartime Liberia had been best for them. They needed to be safe, to be educated, to be with our family here in America, no matter if I didn't feel they were totally free and equal citizens of the United States. Silently I felt cheated, felt that I had been denied my dream of leaving America with its bitter sting of racism and the limits it placed on the souls of myself and my ancestors.

In 1979, when I immigrated from the United States of America, I left behind a country where I could never hope to have my children ascend to the unrestricted heights that every parent wants to know are possible for their offspring. I left America with the hope that in Africa my children could be accepted at full value and be finally, really free. I prayed that their dreams could come true in Sweet Liberia. And yet the Liberian Civil War had changed all that, tainted my dreams in a terrible way and left me with a fractured heart. In August of 1990 when we returned to America, my new struggle was to teach my children how to survive in this ragged and racist culture and "it was, what it was."

And yet, somehow, somewhere, deeply planted inside my soul was the faint memory of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Dream. A dream that foretold that "One day a man would be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin."

The years passed quickly, my children became adults, and I vaguely recall watching a young man they called Barack Obama, deliver the Dr. Martin Luther King message at a downtown bank where I worked during the 80's. At the time I remember thinking, "Wow, he's kinda different, interesting, where did he come from?" In the coming years I watched this young, big-eared man rise slowly in stature; he rose quietly, undergirded by a substance and a groundswell that almost appeared mystical. I watched him become a Senator and I watched him wearing an awkward, overstarched black bandana, cheerfully squeezing mustard on hotdogs, laughing and serving attendees at a Chicago Father's Day celebration. I watched as he moved politically as an unblemished blur. And amidst rumors, I recall the day that he announced that he would run for the office of President of the United States. That's when I heard it. The voice, the still, small one. It said very clearly, "honey, when he runs, he's gonna win, support him!"

I recall the day that he announced that he would enter the presidential race and it struck me that there was a quality about him that said he was different from all other politicians, and again I heard the still small voice cry out absurdly, “support him, he is the one, he will win.”

And yet I have come to trust this voice, because it has never, ever, steered me wrong. It was the same voice that has foretold the sex of each of my children before their births. It was the same small voice that spoke to me and told me to flee Liberia a day before our area was overrun by rebel soldiers, it was the voice that told me on the 4th of July 1993 that I was going to win a brand new Ford Probe!

I said to anyone who would listen, “support him, he will win. Forget the polls, forget the trends. He is our next president!" At first even my closest friends, former Black Nationalists, civil righters, militants, were hesitant, but I just always knew.

My ultimate revelation would come on Tuesday, November 4th when Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America! Yet it took a few additional weeks before I had this revelation. Before it dawned on me that although my family had been forced to flee Liberia; forced to abandon my dream of setting down roots for future generations in Liberia, the Universe knew that my soul needed to be in America, sitting on my living room sofa with my grand daughter, when Americans of many ethnic backgrounds, rose up in consciousness and elected the first man of color, as the President of the United States.

Each day that I live, I am awed by the fact that as human beings we think we know so much. We think we can predict the outcome of situations with our logic and with numerical formulas, but in reality, we don’t know anything at all. Who could have predicted, except Dr. King, that the landscape of America could change so dramatically between 1979 and 2008 that it would be possible to have a man of color elected the leader of the free world.

My favorite symbol is GNAME, a Ghanian Adinkira Symbol that means "no one knows the beginning or ending of anything, except God." Indeed!