It was a completely routine moment—I had just tossed the onions and peppers in a pan to sauté before I added the squash—then I looked over at the TV to see that Nightly News had abruptly switched coverage back to the Pepsi Center to catch Senator Barack Obama’s official nomination by the Democratic Party as their candidate for President of the United States of America. Wow. I was a witness to history in my kitchen cranking a pepper mill. As historic moments go, the memory of this one will be easier on me than say, the memory of Jesse Jackson’s speech at the 1988 convention. Right after that elevated moment, I went down to my basement to find that the water heater had broken and there were two inches of water sloshing across the floor. Last night, when my husband and I finally got to the squash, it was quite tasty—I’m taking that as a good omen.
I had been edgy all week, anticipating the nomination—impatient, unable to find two words to string together that made any difference to me despite all the flashes of thoughts zipping through my head. I had been watching the convention in snatches, because stupid commentary made me want to go through the TV and shake people—like when NY Times columnist David Brooks suggested that Michelle Obama’s speech was a missed opportunity to let people really get to know Barack. What the hell does Brooks want to know? Obama’s shoe size and whether he has a tail? So watching the news at 6:30 was the warm up to my evening of convention viewing. Warm ups are supposed to help you keep from straining yourself, right? But in this case, getting the news cold was a soothing relief.
So, as I seasoned the vegetables, and listened to newscasters recap the hard-fought primary, and preview the fact that Barack Obama will deliver his acceptance speech on the anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream,” speech, it occurred to me that it is appropriate that this first Black person to be a candidate for president of the United States has an African name. Most of us descendents of Africans have no way to trace our real names—the names of our first ancestors brought to this hemisphere. But it is a man with an African name—decidedly different from the names we were given, or took for convenience sake—like Washington, Lincoln or Clinton—who is taking this monumental step, beginning a journey, not ending one. I will be edgy and impatient from now until election day, but I’ll be watching every step of the way and doing whatever I can to further his progress. Not only because he is Black, but because, as Bill Clinton put it, “Barack Obama is on the right side of history.”