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Posts Tagged ‘Barack Obama’

More cautious optimism . . . tainted by uncertainty. A sense now of momentum building up to the inauguration (coronation?) Tuesday.

All up and down Washington Ave, here in Prospect Heights, shop windows display Obama posters, ‘change is coming to America’, quotes from the Bible foretelling the coming of ‘Barack’. You walk into black neighborhoods and you feel a change – people feel happy, more open than I’ve seen black people here in a long, long time. You feel too that some of the tension with white folks has dropped – since everyone but the most obtuse black folks know that any white folks living in Bed-Stuy or Prospect Heights voted for Obama . . .

A friend tells me her business down in Tribeca catering to the wives of hedge fund managers is pulling in one tenth of what it pulled in a year ago, three stores on her block have closed up in the last six months, Bobby D’s new restaurant around the corner opened in September and closed just a couple of weeks ago. Other friends talk about how difficult it’s getting to find work, even temp work.

The jetliner landing in the Hudson somehow sums up the spirit of New York in this moment – potential disaster, the pictures of the passengers on the wings, all the rescue boats and commuter ferries rushing in, no lives lost, a heroic pilot. And I’d walked down the boardwalk along the Hudson just a couple of days ago . . .

For the moment, New York City feels joyful, exhibiting the wonderful, even liberating strength and humanity that I’ve always loved in this city. A good time to be here . . .

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From the Telegraph: 

50 Things You Didn’t Konw About Barack Obama

 

 I’ll bet you really didn’t know the president-elect collects Spiderman and Incredible Hulk comics. Lord knows I didn’t.

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A New Era

Whatever comes next, this a great moment for the United States of America, and for the world. 

I wish I was in New York City right now to share in it’s joy. To be part of the joy sweeping the Beautiful City even as I write this. 

God Bless President-elect Barack Obama and God Bless America.

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Tuesday the 4th . . . even on this foggy English morning you could feel the electricity in the air, fed by the headlines across the newspapers (except for the freebie Metro which warned: “Britain to suffer from downturn more than rest of EU”) – right through to the crowds massing through the Victoria Station rush hour, on the street outside.

You feel like, with all that’s been going on, this is the beginning of a new era. It may be a frightening era – all that economic bad news has to add up to something and everyone knows the crash in jobs, savings, mortgages, is going to follow the crash in the stock market. Even if Obama, the big favorite here and throughout the world beyond the US, wins, there’s no telling what will happen – or if he’ll live up to even a fraction of the expectations around him. But the most powerful country on Earth will be on a different course . . . and whoever wins, Obama or McCain, and whatever they do once in office, new forces and expectation will be unleashed in the US and around the world.

After my shift at yet another shabby art college, i walked through Hackney to Bethnal Green tube. Mostly black area, everything closed off except the two or three kebab shops per block, yellow signs glowing in the foggy dark. If the black folks on the street felt anything about the possible election of the first black president of the USA, they didn’t show it. All the pubs, and even the street was empty . . . somehow I’d expected something else.

   At Bethnal Green tube, some english guy in a yellow vest and a light beard was screaming at an African guy who kept pushing him out of the way. They were arguing on the side of the road and the traffic behind them was honking furiously and soon it transpired that the African was trying to push the white guy away to get back to his car, which was parked in the middle of the road. When he finally got in, the white guy got in front of his car, smashing the hood with his fists, screaming something about a bike – refusing to get out of the way even when the African guy gunned the engine, edged forward, almost knocked him over, then drove forward with the guy hanging on his hood. Somehow, he got around the guy – who then jumped in front of the truck behind him, leaping onto the engine manifold and clinging on while the trucker drove forward. 

   And all this while a bunch of East End boys stood in front of the pub smoking: “run ‘im over!” 

   So that’s my election night. I’d planned to be in New York for this night, but it was not to be . . .

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Well, it’s early days yet. But Obama is one step closer. 

Interesting portrait of Obama in NY Times: 

Calm In the Swirl Of History

Too black for some, too white for others, educated at Harvard, self-made, raised by a single white mother after African father took off, deliberately chose to identify more with his black side (‘remade himself as a black man in Chicago’), arrogant, driven, a little ruthless, an expert on constitutional law, liberal, inexperienced, charismatic (etc) – as a Canadian, the figure Obama most recalls for me (substitute black for French-Canadian) is Pierre Elliot Trudeau,. Depending on your perspective, the best or worst prime minister in Canadian history (my vote is with the former). 

For American readers, Trudeau was Prime Minister for 16 years. 

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Obama

Obama Campaign poster off Flickr

Not much visible support for BarakObama around Bed-Stuy, which surprises me. The places you expect – the African place on Grand, the coffee place on Franklin – but aside from the recently redeveloped building across the street, very few Obama posters in the windows, only the occasional bumper sticker. Only time I heard anyone talking about him in the neighborhood was two old guys in the courtyard of the projects on Lafayette: 

    “Who give a good goddam what some preacher man say? you don’t judge a man by what his supporters say.”

   “Damn right!” 

   Once, coming home on the A train, I met two young guys handing out Obama stickers. They seemed mostly interested in approaching the most attractive women on the train but they gave me a sticker and seemed pleased when I told them I lived in London, that all the English media and a lot of English people were curious about Obama, that for a lot of people he was the most interesting politician to come out of the US in a generation. 

   I’d meant what I said: Obama’s election would do a lot to change how the rest of the world thinks of America. But he wouldn’t be good just for America’s position in the world – he would change black American’s opinion of itself. If Clinton, as the first ‘black’ president could do so much to make black people feel more a part of the US, then imagine what a black black president could (and I never quite understood Clinton’s appeal until a guy who ran a Bed-Stuy bar explained it to me one night. He’d been born in Nigeria but raised in America so he saw it both inside and outside. “Clinton was the first president to make black people feel like they had the same opportunities as any other group. That they weren’t just a problem to throw money at, or feel guilty about – but that they belonged.”)

Having this highly articulate, well-educated and gifted young black man as head of, even after the stagnation of the Bush years, what is still the most powerful nation in the world could only change how black America sees itself. After all they are the real Americans – how many groups can say they’ve been in this country as long as black people. Who knows if Obama will be able to follow through on expectations even if he’s elected, but as a symbol, he’s hard to beat.
 

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