In most black homes growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, you saw portraits of important black leaders usually surrounding pictures of Jesus in the dining room or foyer area. The quiet pride that existed in these homes usually reserved space for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F Kennedy and sometimes Robert F Kennedy. Black Jesus along with MLK and JFK were in my Grandmother’s dining room as reminders of the quiet militancy held by my cherished role models. That reverence did not translate much into our modern day dining rooms.
On January 20, 2017, the collective consciousness of Black American achievement—the collective fairness and hope for all “good” people who felt disenfranchised: The First Nation, Women, LGBT, Hispanic, Muslim, Blacks, environmentalists, the people who want gun control, the people who need healthcare—leaves 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This Black Man, This Black President goes into his civilian life with an incredible approval rating, and with more accolades and love from the media and from the masses than I have ever seen in my years of watching the transition of power in our Government.
“[H]is weeping visage summoned a darker prospect for me, one that cast a shadow over Mr. Obama the moment he announced he would make a run for the Oval Office: They might shoot him.” Mr. Jackson had been present when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. met his violent end on a balcony in Memphis. As I viewed Mr. Jackson’s watery eyes, I couldn’t help but associate him with Dr. King and the fear that our newly-elected president might be assassinated. Black America has held its collective breath during every single second of Barack Obama’s presidency.”
We can now collectively exhale . . . but don’t doubt for one damn minute that he doesn’t still need Secret Service protection.
Eight years ago I was privileged to watch this on my television in my home, possibly one of the most significant events in modern-day American history, and clearly the most significant event since the abolishing of slavery: the rise to power of Barack Hussein Obama. Like every Black Person I know from my generation, NONE of us thought we would live to see this day. Initially, I was completely unaware of what this man brought to the table. However, history has chosen to show us that the first Black President of the United States bought more to this office by way of example than any other modern day President.
He brought qualities that you rarely see in a politician, white or black: grace, empathy, steadiness, love, appreciation, diversity, respect, steadfastness, love of family and love of country. You may not have liked all of his policies, but he put America First and he made decisions based upon what he perceived to be the best for the American people.
President Obama singlehandedly uplifted the infinite possibilities of hope and humanity and silently affirmed what we have always felt and believed in ourselves as Black Men. He set the bar for men who grew up fatherless, who excel in their careers and love their wives and daughters. He protected his family, honored and respected his Mother-in-Law, and nurtured his girls while fiercely defending the Republic and literally killing our enemies without placing our troops in harm’s way. There is no question that his example is the zenith of what the modern man—black or white—can and should be, not for the accolades but because it is the right thing to do. He understood perception, he wasn’t perfect, he was our best. Our best on full, cool, complex, masculine, unruffled display. He stated in his farewell address to the White House Reporters that he could “curse like a sailor” but his presence prevented that.
What is the measure of a man? When The Actor Ossie Davis was eulogizing the magnificent martyr that we call “Brother Minister” el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz known as Malcolm X, he stated that “Malcolm was our manhood, our living, black manhood!” I say that “Barack is our Strength, our Grace” and while living, firmly takes his place among the ones that have gone before him. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and now Barack Hussein Obama. How fitting that this brothers name reflects the enlightenment of the Hajj, that Malcolm took to Mecca where his eyes were opened and he transformed into the understanding that Muslims were Black, White, Brown of all colors. How fitting that our First Black President has an African-Muslim name. How fitting it is for mankind that he was borne by an amazing White Woman. How amazing is his Grace. How sweet the sound of his name.
The landscape has changed the perception of Black men and the truth as set forth by the media is no longer the rule as there are exceptions that have shined brightly like: Barack, Eric Holder, Colin Powell, Common, Denzel, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. No longer will we accept that a black perpetrator paraded for the media in a perp walk represents who we are as humans, no more than a confederate flag waving racist in khakis or an expensive suit represents all of White America, these perceptions are no longer acceptable to those of us who choose to reside in the light.
He bought a controlled aloofness that many could not fathom. He wasn’t the best at working with the Republicans, but how good are any of us when we are working with people who have expressed from the very beginning that they refuse to work with us no matter what? Essentially, he took the heat and the blame for policies that were not perfect and did so with true debate and with open honest discussion could have been improved upon. The “IT” I am referring to is the Affordable Care Act which was effectively branded by an ineffective Republican congress as “Obama Care” in order to use the Jedi Mind Trick on the populace that this “would not work” and “it’s too expensive.” There was no debate or cooperation to improve it and even now, there is no solution, just repeal healthcare for 20 million Americans, Republican and Democrat. Those souls are collectively crying out to keep their coverage.
He is a measured constitutional law professor, a writer and far too smart for the office itself. America had its smartest most cerebral President who preferred drones to sending our men to fight urban wars in foreign countries at the risk of their lives. He heard his Mother on her hospital bed arguing with insurance companies about her own care and made the cornerstone of his Presidency the right to healthcare for all. Some may say at this point in time that he wasn’t a good president because in their mind he was able to do nothing. But what he did accomplish was without the cooperation of a deeply divided and at times racist Congress that again said from the very beginning it would not work with him. It seems that everyone forgets that little historical fact. He accomplished a great many things, some noticeable some not so noticeable. In the end, you will derive what you wish from the past eight years.
I saw a family man, A God-fearing man with empathy and with no scandals marring his life or the life of his family. I saw a man who respects his wife, a man who elevated his girls and sought a better United States for them to grow up in. I saw a man with so much gravitas that, even in the face of blatant racism and disrespect, he was never disrespectful and gave as good as he got with intellect and with Grace. In the face of mounting hatred and second-guessing of even his Americanness, Martin Luther King gave us our humanity, Malcolm X gave us our strength, Barack Obama gave us our promise and reminded us of our grace.
Ossie Davis, in delivering the eulogy for Malcolm X at the Faith Temple Church Of God on February 27, 1965, said about Malcolm:
“Malcolm came along and said, ‘Stop. Stop. You are men. Stop. You do care. Stop. There is life in you. Stop. There is still the possibility that manhood, that courage, that strength, that imagination, will make the difference.’ It was he who rallied our flagging efforts, who taught us to stand up off of our knees—especially the black men, but also the whites—to stand up off of our knees, to address ourselves to the truth, even if we were killed for it.”
To change Ossie’s words as it relates to my feelings about the man who would forever be My Black President: “We can stand a little taller because a man like Barack Hussein Obama walked on our Earth, lived in our midst, smiled his smile in the face of Washington D.C. In the coming winter of our discontent, he will come forth again to meet us. And we will know him for what he is: a Prince. Our own black shining Prince! God Bless Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States of America.
Footnote: How to follow the Obamas after they leave the White House they’ll still be tweeting, and new accounts will act as an archive for their official POTUS and FLOTUS posts. https://www.engadget.com/2017/01/19/barack-michelle-obama-social-media-handover/
Photo credit: Getty/Scot Olson