Today I had the awesome experience of attending a pre-Obama inauguration party. In Nigeria! Ever since I got here, there has been a group of staunch Obama supporters that have engaged me, defended America, pushed optimism to the highest level, and completely lost their minds when Obama won. These people were serious. I would have to watch CNN constantly to keep up with them because they knew more about American politics than I did. They were on all the news feeds, reading all the blogs, discussing with their families back in the States. The expectation was that I could keep up. Honestly, I was never able to.
In honor of Obama being inaugurated, they held a luncheon at a nearby hotel. There were about 25 of us in attendance, and I was the only American. I felt privileged that they would include me on something so obviously important to them.
As each one stood up and shared what Obama’s presidency meant to them, they were emotional. They shared tales of how they felt Obama was ordained by God, and how Obama’s message of persistence and dedication until they reached their goals affected them personally. They hoped that the message of change would cross America’s borders and infiltrate the people and government of Nigeria. And then they asked me to speak.
I talked about how when Michelle Obama said, “First the first time in my adult life, I am proud to be an American…” that white America was up in arms. And even in that crowd, I heard a few grumbles of disagreement. But I kept talking and told them that I understood. And I knew that all over America, Blacks were nodding their heads in agreement. For people that were used to being disenfranchised, scapegoated, and excluded, having Obama as President-elect was the first time we saw America as something that we could relate to. I told them that I was excited, because my 88 year old grandmother, whose own grandfather was a slave (only 5 generations away people), who lived through the dehumanizing days of Jim Crow, was able to see a black President in her lifetime. That my mother, a kindergarten teacher, who was told that because she was black, the only thing she could aspire to was to be a teacher or a nurse, could really see one of her students as President of the US someday. That while I have been made acutely aware of being American since living in a foreign country, I could really be proud of that fact.
The luncheon ended up with a round of pictures, us taking pictures standing between the Nigerian and American flags. I just marveled at the fact that I had to travel all the way to Nigeria to actually understand exactly how American I really am.