“Your capacity to shape the world is unmatched.” – Barack Obama, 23rd April 2016.
“Obama na win o! Chineke! Obama na win o!” 8 years ago, these were the words that my mum was screaming throughout the house, in the early hours of the morning. While CNN showed the scenes of thousands celebrating; jumping with excitement, hugging the people closest to them and crying tears of joy. I couldn’t quite understand the significance of the occasion. A moment which had thousands of people on my TV screen filled with excitement. A moment which brought my mother to the brink of tears. Was a moment I didn’t quite understand.
I thought by 20 I would have fully understood and grasped the impact of America’s first black President. I had watched his speeches. I had read his books. I thought I had that moment all figured out. The spit in the face it provided to America’s dark and racist past. The joy it provided to the surviving members of the ‘We Shall Overcome’ generation who were able to see their wildest dream come to fruition. I thought I had the impact all figured out until Saturday 23rd April 2016, I realised I knew nothing about the severity of that moment.
I had known for a week that I had been invited to the Town Hall with President Obama. I told my mum while she was sleeping and even in the midst of her sleep she still managed to show her excitement by shouting thanksgiving to God. I thought that attending would just re-emphasise everything I thought I had known about Obama and the impact of his presidency; but the syllabus changed.
There’s a video a friend tagged me on Facebook and I believe the story told fits perfectly with this piece. It’s Michelle Obama speaking about a picture. This picture:
She mentions that while the White House photographers come every few weeks to change pictures in the west, this one remains on the wall and has hung on the wall for more than 3 years. In the picture the little boy was keen to find out if the President of the United States hair’ was similiar to his. Obama bent down and asked the boy to touch it to see for himself. On touching POTUS’ hair (who gets to say they’ve done that!) he screamed ‘Yes! It does feel the same’.
There’s a few lessons we can learn from this; the humility displayed by Barack Obama in that moment, the ever-reaching innocence of children and neglect for protocols and regulations. But rather the one I want to focus on is, representation. Perfectly summed up by this tweet:
“On Tuesday, November 4, 2008, I realized that my potential has no boundaries. Thank you for being you
When I saw Obama walk out on to that stage something happened, it’s difficult to put into words but like that little boy it became real for me. I ’touched Obama’s hair’. The symbolism that Obama for so long represented to my community became consolidated in my mind, and I believed. That could be me. Whether it will or won’t is another matter that’s entirely up to me; but it could.
I know our world is still far from perfect. Injustices still take place every day. But somewhere in the midst of all the madness. I became a believer that our future can and will be brighter. I’m doing my part to make it happen.
So for that timely reminder and for simply being you, I’d like to say: Thank you, Barack.