Our Election Day Diaries
We were not together. Donna was at home in Brooklyn, Virginia in North Brunswick.
Election Day was the most extraordinary day I have yet been given the grace to live through. It was spent in a flurry of phone calls, e-mails and texts shared with friends. We were all giddy and shared our experiences of standing in line to vote, how long it took, how much fun it was. Now, I’m a New Yorker. It is rare that folks describe standing in line as fun. And when it was my turn in the booth, it all felt so simple, so regular. I expected to be emotional, but as I clicked my lever next to the Obama column, it seemed completely regular, like all of the votes I have cast since my 18th birthday—let’s not count. But I enjoyed the regularity of it. The candidate was special, but the act was routine—one I will repeat again the next time election day rolls around.
As for the returns, I watched at home with my husband. I needed the quiet and the focus to wait for the numbers. As each new state was called in Obama’s column I felt more sure, yet more tense. I just wanted him safely over the electoral college top. And then it happened. About 30 seconds after the polls closed on the West Coast California’s 50 votes were added to his total and it was done. A new era had begun. My husband and I were quiet. We could hear horns blowing and people cheering in the street. I went downstairs to my Mom’s bedroom to share the moment with her too. After all, she was the one who raised me to believe that I could be whomever I chose to be regardless of my race. Clearly, she was right.
The next morning when I went outside, my garbage man waved and wished me a “Happy Obama Day!” I was in my car heading to Jersey, listening to an NPR talk show when a caller described the celebration that took place at Carlton Place and DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn. Now, when I was brought home from the hospital, many moons ago, we lived at Carlton and DeKalb. Somehow hearing that made me feel like I had indeed arrived at exactly the right place at the right time in my life. I felt challenged by our new president to find ways to make my neighborhood, my city, my country or the world a better place. It made me feel giddy again. I hope to let that feeling move me forward for quite some time to come.
This is the email I wrote to my family after I voted.
I have returned from voting--at the polling place where I have cast my vote in EVERY election for the 16 years I have lived in New Jersey. I have always understood, since I went to the polls with my parents every Election Day when I was a little girl, that the right to vote was important, sacred even. The polls were in our elememtary school P.S. 74 in Buffalo and we'd always stop by the PTA bake sale on the way home. Cookies and cupcakes notwithstanding, my mom and dad stressed the gravity of Election Day and indoctrinated my brother, sister and me with their philosophy--that exercising your right to express your opinion about your community, city and country, through your vote, was never, ever, to be taken lightly. I voted for George McGovern in my very first presidential election...yes I'm that old! I even recalled the occasion, a few years ago, when because of the death and funeral of my Uncle Tommy in NYC, my family from out of town, was here with me on Election Day and not able to go to the polls. So at 7:30 PM, when we returned to NJ from the cemetery in Queens, they all went with me as I cast my vote for Bill Clinton's second term, because I was the only one who could.
That being said, none of those votes, not one of those elections compared to what I experienced on November 4, 2008. Once home, for reasons I know I don't have to explain, when I got home, I wept. My tears were for my ancestors--and all of our ancestors who descended from those who were brought to this country in chains and owned as chattel until Lincoln issued the Proclamation in September 1862 that later became law in January 1863. For our ancestors, who despite being freed, suffered the indignity of Jim Crow and inequality and who those were not allowed the right to vote until the National Voting Rights Act in 1965...and even then, for many it was not easy. And so I cried some more. Because unlike Barack's grandmother, Toot, who passed on the day before seeing her beloved grandson win this historic election, and my dad who passed almost 25 years ago and many, many more grandparents, aunts and uncles who have gone on, my mother, Neechie, at 85, lived to be able to cast her vote for the first Black man to ever be nominated by a major party for the Presidency of the United States of America...and to join us all in awaiting the results and celebrating his victory.
I believe he is the man for the job.
I believe he is the leader for this time.
We Have Overcome!
It is a great day!
And this is my day after Election note.
I am still recovering from the most amazing night of my life--and I do not say that at all lightly--I have had quite an extraordinary life if I allow myself to think about it objectively. But last night was the winner, hands down--or up! I was at Makeda Ethiopian Restaurant, "my spot" in New Brunswick--surrounded by friends and strangers of every race, age and background which is the usual crowd-- the America that elected Barack Obama-- in that restaurant. We laughed, cried, cheered and screamed...and I drank more than my share of champagne! I started to cry again when Vermont, was the first state to be called for Obama. When Pennsylvania came in I stared to scream along with my tears of joy. During the evening I would leave the boisterous celebration periodically to go out and take or make a phone call, because it was too noisy in Makeda to hear. And outside on the streets, people were parading--with homemade Obama signs and banners, screaming, cheering--car horns were blaring. Rutgers students poured out of the dorms and swarmed the streets with Obama flags made from their bed sheets chanting "Yes we can!" I even had a student offer me a hug to because I just couldn't stop crying. The New Jersey Democratic Party party with Gov. Corzine and Sen. Lautenberg were holding their party at a hotel across the street--so it was a lively town. When I got home at 2AM, I spoke with a good friend, a photographer, who was in Grant Park, so he'll have great shots--I can't wait to see them.
I am hoarse, my throat and chest are sore from screaming, my eyes are swollen from many many tears. But I am happy. "O" so happy! And as the Target ad I just saw says--"It's a new day."
We Baracked the Vote!!