I remember listening to Obama’s inaugural speech. Back then, his message of “hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict” was far more dazzling than the insipid CGP books increasingly gaining dust on my shelves. Even all the way across the pond. And the man himself was something of a marvel. That he, a young, black senator emerged on my TV screen as the leader of the ‘free’ world enchanted me. For I knew dreams were shared between his and my father, and I was certain his father was black like me.
I am not ashamed to say, Obama’s blackness motivated me. But even more, his universal message of hope inspired me. So when Obama declared “Yes we can” I believed we could- I believed, Obama would become the Marcus Garvey of my generation!
And with this bold, blind hope, on the 20th of January 2009, I joyfully devoured his inauguration speech and ball. I watched every step of that inauguration, transfixed by Barack with all his unwavering coolness, although I was slightly perturbed by his decision to let Beyonce, and not the late great Etta James, sing At last. (Calm down Beyhive- age over popularity). Yet I realise now, that in choosing Beyonce over Etta, Barack cleverly reaffirmed his position as the voice of the youth – the voice of the identity-seeking millennials desperate for change.
Like myself, 66% of young voters bought into Obamaism, emphatically chanting our mantra of Yes We Can. Until we found out that he couldn’t. Or maybe he just didn’t. And for that Mr Obama, I am so incredibly bereft. My heart crumbled as I witnessed the audacity of hopelessness laden throughout Obama’s two terms.Still, as harsh as it sounds, I know I am not alone in my view that Obama has failed Black people.
However, I am conscious of the systemic political and racial barriers Obama faced as the first black president of the united states. Although this understanding has enabled me to expunge Obama of the heaps of blame I initially placed in his hands, it has not lessened my heartache. I now find myself in the inimical position of a teenage lover (no, not in a literal sense #NoMonicaLewinsky), saddened that my crush amounted to less than I had hoped, but also reluctant to see the back of him. Because, in the infamous words of Olivia Pope, Obama was “our boy.” So while I accept Dr Umar Johnson’s assessment that for the progression of African Americans, it is high time our boy leaves the nest, I am nursing my sorrow as he goes through the door. Leaving with as much style and grace as he came.
So here I stand, an incredibly conflicted but resolutely loyal Obamite; disappointed by his presidency, but inspired by it too. And I can’t think of more fitting words to manage this internal conflict than those penned by the man himself:
“For now, whether you’re young or young at heart, I do have one final ask of you as your president – the same thing I asked when you took a chance on me eight years ago.
I am asking you to believe. Not in my ability to bring about change – but in yours.”
So for you Obama, for my son, and of course for myself- I dedicate my life to bringing about positive changes for all.
And guess what- yes I can.