It’s been a long time coming…



As you all know, I have been a huge Obama supporter from the very beginning, when I first heard him speak at the DNC in 2004, when he posed the question: Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope? I have always been conflicted about America’s two dominating party politics because I didn’t feel that either one of them fully represented the complexities of my life (and those around me) and the values we espouse based on culture, experience, spirituality and the list goes on.

Yet, somehow his words really moved me, it made me think much deeper about the role of politics in our lived realities, especially as Pacific Islanders, who seem to always be excluded from these political discussions. His words resonated with issues that I had been grappling with in my work among Pacific Islander young people, and when he said we need to “eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white” I was quite surprised that a politician was actually aware of and would raise this issue that is often referred to in the Tongan community as being “fie palangi” and how this construct has been used to silence, divide, essentialize, marginalize, and restrict the creativity and intellect of many of our young people. I chose at that time to slowly move toward a politics of hope, but approaching it with a critical eye!

I must admit that throughout this presidential campaign, I have doubted whether or not it could actually really happen, that we as American citizens (regardless of race, class and gender) would come together to vote for an African American to be President of the United States. My doubts were not because I felt President Obama wasn’t ready (because clearly to me he was the best candidate) but rather I was unsure if America was ready. I mean let’s just keep it real—to willingly trust White America would be an act of historical stupidity—yet at the same time to ignore how far we have come would be to disrespect and dishonor the sacrifices of many who have come before us and have given their lives so that we can be closer to actualizing our own dreams and on a more personal note, it’s their sacrifices which have made it possible for me to be here blogging about these very issues.

Putting my doubts aside, I chose to be hopeful and this past Tuesday, it became a reality as Senator Obama became President-elect Obama! Do I think this means that America is now post-racial (as many would like to think)? Absolutely Not! Do I think that this election serves as a paradigm shift in America? Not Yet! Do I see a shift in consciousness? Possibly!

This election, in my opinion is about America finally growing up and rejecting the politics of fear! It is about young people yearning to hold America accountable to its promises and ideals (which for centuries have only benefitted a privileged few)! This election is a reminder that grassroots efforts is where change always starts and that community organizers totally rocked the country (in your face McCain, Palin, Guilanni and others who mocked community organizers)!

This election is not just an African American victory, it is an American victory! It is a reminder to all politicians (democrats, republicans, independents, etc.) that American politics needs to generate a new kind of language and policies that reflects the uniqueness of this moment in our history and the possibilities this election can and must create. It is a reminder that we as citizens must do some serious grassroots politics if we want to continue to foster this momentum of change that is sweeping through our country!

I strongly believe that how President Obama governs will be determined on how we as citizens take up our own responsibilities and hold Washington accountable to its promises. As the late Roosevelt reportedly told those who were in charge of the Labor Movement, “I agree with you, now go out and make me do it!”

I believe this is the attitude that we must embrace, especially in this time in our history!

I leave you with the music and lyrics of one of my all time favorite music artist-- Sam Cooke!

...It's been a long time coming But I know a change is gonna come...



A Change Is Gonna Come
Sam Cooke (1964)

I was born by the river in a little tent
And just like the river, I've been running ever since
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

It's been too hard living, but I'm afraid to die
I don't know what's up there beyond the sky
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

I go to the movie, and I go downtown
Somebody keep telling me "Don't hang around"
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Then I go to my brother and I say, "Brother, help me please"
But he winds up knocking me back down on my knees

There've been times that I've thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come

Sunday, November 9, 2008

2 Comments:

Obama Girl UK said...

Preach it, sister..preach it!

I've had discussions all this week from folks on our military base at how far the collective consciousness has moved to one based on reality than ever before. Whereas in previous generations they challenged 'the man' and rebelled against what was force fed to them, I think this, OUR, generation will be one of accountability and being productive members of society. Don't tell us what you can do, do it. And if we don't see fit, then we'll call you on it. My friends have all marvelled at how fantastic this moment in time is for their parents and for some of them who grew up in the South..that they would never see this moment in their lifetime.

I have always, ALWAYS, been extremely offended by the remark made by members outside of my immediate family that by attending a good school, getting an education, wanting to better our lives and those of our children and brothers and sisters that we were being fie palangi. My retort was always swift and two-fold: 1) uh, duh, I am palangi because of my heritage and very palangi great-grandfather so I am not trying to be something I'm not and that it probably meant that sharing the same last name with a letter that isn't even in the Tongan alphabet would put them on par with that argument and 2) since when did the palangi's have a monopoly on and become the face of success? There is no 'fie' in my palangi self or 'fie me'a' in my drive to not only honor the people who came before me and paddled their canoes, stood up in their villages, made the decision to move to a new country, a foreign land and offer my sisters and brothers opportunities that they could only dream of from their little ole island but..hello..there is no fie..I AM me'a. Ha, ha!

I think a healthy sense of self never hurt anyone. Ha, ha! My mother says it's a Koloan trait.

So to paraphrase another song made famous by Curtis Mayfield (but Eva Cassidy's rendition is my favorite:)

People get ready
for the train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage
you just get on board !

Sam's Neph said...

Sam didn't live to see the vision in his song played out, but I know he's smiling anyhow.

Erik Greene
Author, “Our Uncle Sam: The Sam Cooke Story From His Family's Perspective”
www.OurUncleSam.com