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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hope Restored

Today I am so proud of America. We finally did something right!

I remember as a child listening to the radio before going to school and hearing all what was going on in Little Rock, Arkansas. It hit me so hard I dreaded driving through there 23 years later. Then Birmingham, Alabama and Mississippi and all those terrible things that happened in the 50's.

My mother taught me to accept people and I couldn't understand what was going on. It set me on a path to work for civil rights, sometimes actively, sometimes behind the scenes by my example.

When I was 12, my best friends and I campaigned for Kennedy by holding signs at a rally downtown Hayward when Nixon came to give a speech. A man came up and offered us a dime to leave.

When Kennedy created the Peace Corps, I decided that some day I would go and I did. I was 27 and I was an ESL teacher. I went to Zaire and taught at the University in Lubumbashi. I have to admit, I learned more than I taught. It was a challenge to be in the minority, but it gave me a little insight into how it feels.

Even though I was expecting to return to the U.S., I remembered the story of my grandmother who only planned to come to America for a couple years to earn money to send back to her parents, then return home. WWI broke out and she was not able to return to her family in Poland and had to make a life here. So... I was preparing myself for the same thing. What if I couldn't go "home" and had to stay there and make a new home?

That was a long time ago, but through the years, whenever I was in a position to stand up for someone, challenge racism, or offer support, I have done so.

When I lived in Louisiana, I came up against racism on a regular basis. It shocked me. Here it was the 80's and this XXXX was still going on. I really couldn't believe it. Having lived there and seeing it for myself, the way people were treated after Katrina didn't surprise me. The only difference was that the rest of America saw it too, finally. Louisiana was the most backwards place I had ever lived. It was like they were in a time warp.

Let's face it folks, there hasn't been much to celebrate lately. But this election of Obama has made me so happy. I believe, if nothing else, it has inspired young people and that is the most important thing anyone can do.

Election day I found out that my polls were closed and I was supposed to vote by mail. I don't like voting by mail, so when the ballot came, I thought I had an option, so I tore it up. Fortunately, I was outside when my neighbor was walking her dogs and we discussed the ads that Google posted without my knowledge or consent.

KPFA was broadcasting about election issues and gave out a hotline number if we had problems. So I called and found out that I had to drive 15 miles to the County Center and the Registrar of Voters Office. I did it because it was too important to miss. Even though I felt sure my one vote would not make that much difference, I wanted to be a part of history.

I am so glad I lived long enough to see this.

Someone said something that night that was very significant:

Rosa Parks sat so that Martin could march.
Martin marched so that Obama could run.
Obama ran so that my children can fly.

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