Like a lot of folks, I’m still on a post-election high. It’s only been a week, but Barack Obama is quickly establishing himself as a man who is capable of leading not only the United States, but the free world. He is a great visual, and great to listen too. I watched the replay of him and George W. meeting yesterday, and while W. is known for the confident bounce in his step, which is still evident, the only way to describe Obama’s gate as he walked next to him is… swagger. He had on $1,500 suit, and walked like he was coming off the basketball court after a 21-8 one-on-one victory. I know his lineage, but whether by nature, nurture, or a combination thereof, that man is all brotha.
This brother is soon to be the leader of the free world, but he is definitely the new leader of Black men. I realized this when I was standing in line to early vote. Being late in the day and obviously going over the time allotted to vote, they moved everyone on line into the gym of the youth center where we were voting. There were so many folks there, we wrapped around the wall and still went out the building. I saw my wife pointing and counting, and when she finished she said, “14”. Of course I asked what she was counting, and she said, “there are 14 black males in this building between the ages of 18 and 34.” Yeah, it was an estimate, because brothers down here age quickly and there could have been about five more. Also, she didn’t count the seven or so Hispanics that I like to include in the brother count. Those brothers had dreads, and bald heads. Some had their hats forward, some had them backward. One or two were obviously a little preppy, others looked like they wouldn’t know Izod from Ipod. But they were all there together. As a percentage of the crowd, they were small, but as a percentage of black men in society, they were definitely more than the national average. Can I say, as an older brother, I was proud.
That is the effect that Obama is having. Brothers recognize when another brother is putting himself out there, and they will rise up to hep dat brova out. In sports, it’s called making those around you better. Brothers who felt they were in this country, but the country was not in them, are feeling… American. Brothers are also feeling the need/desire/pressure to be better and do better, because they have the ultimate example of how to do it from the Commander/ God-fearer/ Husband/Father/Brother/ Professional/Community Activist/Educator–in-Chief.
This is the Re-enfranchisement f the Brothers/Brothas/Brovas/Bros (depending on where you are geographically externally and/or internally). It even affects older brothers more than younger ones. Church service this past Sunday was a celebration of Veteran’s Day. Since my pastor, most of the ministers (male and female), and probably 1/3 of the adults at the church are Vets, we take this holiday seriously. They all agreed that in many respects, this exemplified the change they were fighting for. After church, I went to visit my Uncle Jay, the WWII Veteran, to tell him about the service. He came over to me and showed me the giant poster of the Obama Family in the Fayetteville Observer and said, “this is what makes today special”. He agreed that this is what he was fighting for six decades ago when his hearing, sight and mind still worked the majority of the time. Then he did something I didn’t think he could do… he told me a story he hadn’t told me before.
Uncle Jay said that when he got back to Georgia from Asia after the war, an old White farmer told him he needed to come work for him. The man had a reputation of being abusive and not paying what he promised, so my uncle told him “no, thank you”. The man was irate, and told my uncle, “So you went away to the war, and now you think you’re too good to work for me. You just need to be beat one good time, that’ll fix you. You’ll work for me then”. My uncle asked him, “why do you want to beat me, I didn’t do anything wrong?” Pleading your case was the standard response to something like that back then, because if a White man felt justified in beating you, he would do it. While he spoke, my uncle said in the back of his mind he was thinking, “I spent the last three years of my life driving weapons and ammunition to fellas fighting on the front line with people shooting at me, and this is the thanks I get?” Then he poked the newspaper picture with finger really hard a couple of times and said, this is what it was all about… this is the thanks I get!”
After two years of prime time coverage on a Brother that represents what is good about Black men… not perfect, but good… our country is beginning to see Brothers differently. Even more, the world is beginning to see Brothers differently. But best of all, Brothers are beginning to see themselves differently. Welcome to America my brothers, and make yourself at home.