Monday, January 19, 2009
Regular readers know I'm not much for writing extensive pieces on this site with a few exceptions. The inauguration of our first Black president would probably be inspiration enough to become the next exception, but time is not on my side right now plus my dude Kobie blasted out the following piece earlier today that pretty much captured much of what I might have come up with myself. So rather than just end up repeating many of his sentiments and points, let me share his thoughts on Barack's inauguration as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday today:
"I couldn't help but notice the drizzle that fell as I stood in my yard processing what had just happened. I'm actually experiencing this!!! It was Tuesday, November 4, 2008 and America's 44th President-elect, Barack Obama, had just delivered his victory speech. Always one to ponder the symbolism of any moment, I wondered, "could these be tears from heaven?" If so, they likely belonged to throngs of forefathers, men and women, who watched as a nation defied all conventional socio-political wisdom; electing its first African-American president. Next stop, January 20, 2009. The location: Washington, D.C.
The other day, I spoke with a friend that teaches at the same middle school I attended as a child. He explained how some of the teachers at the school started a petition protesting the screening of Tuesday's Inauguration. This prompted me to remove my music industry hat and share with him a bit of history that is often overlooked.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was America's first Capitol, but a major outbreak of yellow fever and political pressure from the nation's southern states were key factors in the Capitol's relocation. Most Southerners took issue with Northern Quakers who proposed the abolition of the slave trade and eventual end of American slavery. Southern leaders were disturbed because America's power seat existed in a slavery-free state. Pennsylvania allowed Blacks to assemble, attend church, and become educated on their own. All of these activities were prohibited in the South, where slavery built Southern cities, culture and most of America's commerce.
George Washington, our nation's father, spearheaded the southward journey from Philadelphia to D.C. In a move that predates and upstages most of the allegations lodged against Illinois Governor, Rod Blagojevich, the President and Thomas Jefferson formed the Patowmack Navigation Company. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the American government then contracted Patowmack – the President and Secretary of State's company- to handle the mountainous task of turning acres of land and swamp into what is now the nation's capital. They didn't do the work alone. Patowmack purchased and "leased" crews of black people to dig up tree stumps, haul lumber, chisel stone, clear land and stir mortar that was then used to bond bricks. Ruthless overseers, as well as the black's strange appearance averted any flight risks. This is because Patowmack made sure to remove all of the slaves' hair and eyebrows, making it easy to identify and recapture those "employees" seeking a day off, let alone freedom. Their stolen labor built the Washington, the Capitol Building and yes... even the White House. Did these men and women every dream that people who looked like them would ever be free, let alone lead this nation? I'd imagine that theirs were among the eyes that shed tears from heaven on that early November night; shocked by a dramatic change in America's social paradigm. From Martin to Malcolm, Harriet, Coretta and Rosa, American history is full of men and women whose efforts, sacrifice and blood, not only built America, but also made this day possible.
Barack Obama's election doesn't mark the end of racism, but its brilliance shakes prejudice at its core. His election subverts the prevailing image of black men as pimps, hustlers and hypersexual beasts. It presents the image of an incisively intelligent and supportive black woman, mother and wife, in place of the many modern day plantation bed wenches paraded on TV. It validates the efforts of countless - famous and not so famous - men and women who sacrificed everything with the hope that generations of people they'd never meet would eventually experience a much better life. This moment signifies our nation's spiritual and intellectual growth; reminding us that education and preparation are powerful tools. Most of all, this moment proves that anything is possible through God's will and our determination. I'm not sure if the teachers at my old middle school understand this, but I hope that the kids do.
I consider myself and everyone that I know beyond blessed to be a part of this moment, and I look forward to being a part of those that will follow. Even greater is the fact that I am here in Washington, D.C. In the event that Tuesday, January 20, 2009 is not filled with tears from heaven, I can assure you that mine will be among those that fall on earth.
© 2009 Kobie Brown. All rights reserved
Read more from The Kobie Chronicles here.
The Kitchen previously on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s holiday: 2006 | 2005