By Patricia Wilson-Smith
This Saturday, August 4th was Senator Barack Obama’s 46th birthday. We at BlackWomenForObama.org would like to wish the next President of the United States a very happy birthday!
And now, for a totally unrelated anecdote.
I’ve just spent the day preparing for a business trip, and of course, because I am a black woman, I had to get my “nails did”.
I spent an excruciating three hours with a wonderful Vietnamese shop owner name Mary, who is meticulous in all she does, and extremely talkative. As a matter of fact, her talkativeness (hmmmm, is that a word?) is infectious, and before I and the other ladies in the salon knew it, we had a brisk conversation going about absolutely nothing at all.
I know an opportunity when I see one. I pulled out my BWFO business cards in dramatic fashion and offered it to the lady to my right (let’s call her “Lady #1”). I asked Lady #1 in a way that I hoped didn’t sound too harassing, “So who are you supporting this election year for President?” She was very nice, and admitted openly that that was not her “thing”. I would need to speak to her husband.
I gave this woman my best spiel about how black women have to become part of the political process, and why it was so important in this election year more than any other. She listened intently, and then said, “Wow, my husband is going to LOVE talking to you! That’s his thing, ya know, the whole political thing!” Oy.
Next, I jumped from my seat and handed a card to a very nice, quiet, unassuming lady who was seated in a salon spa chair having her feet worked on vigorously by a perky salon worker (let’s call her “Lady #2”). As I stood in front of Lady #2 and offered her my card, she asked if I was a teacher, having overheard part of my conversation with Lady #1.
“Yes, I am”, I replied. “At the college level. I taught part-time for SPSU for years, and now I’m taking a break, partly so that I can help Senator Barack Obama get elected”.
I waited for that glimmer of recognition, that “OH!” expression to cross her face, any gesture or sign that might tell me that she knew who I was talking about. Instead, what she said next nearly floored me:
“Oh. I…don’t know who that is.”
“You don’t know who I am??!?” I asked. Because that wouldn’t have been that surprising. After all, I had just walked in the salon door a half hour earlier.
(Note: I intentionally misunderstood. It was a coping mechanism.)
“Uh, well, no I don’t know who you are of course, but I don’t know who E-shack Bomamba is either..”
“B-Barack Obama. Barack Obama”, I said through clinched teeth. “Do you know who Hillary Clinton is?”
She nodded. And I think you get the point.
What I have come to discover in the short time that I have been working to get Black Women For Obama off the ground is that scant few black women give even a second thought to the political process. Many of us, too busy and severely taxed just trying to keep food on the table and our kids on the right path, get our political educations from 30 second sound bites on the nightly or 24-hour news channels. And so, so many of us got the magical message back in the nineties that Bill Clinton was the greatest thing since sliced bread, (and he was close), so now we’re willing to take Hillary on the strength of her association with him.
This is not good, and it’s one of the main reasons why a Hillary Clinton presidency doesn’t sit well with me. I don’t believe that a lot of people are electing Hillary, I think they really want to RE-elect Bill, and though I am a huge fan of Bill Clinton, I feel very strongly that he and Hillary have had their time.
The style of politics that our most recent presidents have engaged in has failed black women. In our communities, black women are having babies out of wedlock at the rate of 70%. Aids is ravaging our sisters, opportunities are still not equal, and the United States is slipping further and further behind other developed nations when it comes to the quality of education we provide our children. All of this while politicians bat wildly at each other like two 8-year old school girls in a playground fist-fight.
And so, I hold BWFO, and other organizations like it up as a beacon of hope to those who know we need and want something better, and even to those who may not know, like Lady #2 from the salon. The bottom line is, the privilege of voting means nothing if we don’t educate ourselves on who the candidates are, and where they stand on the issues. We have to make informed decisions about how we’re going to spend our precious votes, and not even knowing WHO comprises the field of candidates in the party we blindly support is like ordering the first thing you see from a restaurant menu without reviewing your choices and then bitching when your meal is not to your satisfaction.
Black women – if we don’t make our voices heard now, we will NOT be heard later!
If you care about moving this great nation in the right direction, join a State Chapter of Black Women for Obama, or start your own. And if not BWFO, find some organization to get involved with that will help you become a part of the political happenings around you. We all owe it to ourselves, and the mothers, daughters and friends we love so much to not let them off the hook for not getting involved. Spread the word – this is the year of the black woman when it comes to the selection of our next President, and Black Women for Obama is leading the charge!