If ever there was a time in my life when I felt like throwing a party it was Tuesday night and in fact, I did arrange for one. There were some invitations for the elections watch because it has become a tradition every four years.
Whenever there is an election in the United States, for some reason Guyanese get so engrossed in the affairs that one would believe that they have a say in the outcome.
Perhaps they do because they live in large numbers in the United States in places like New York, New Jersey, Texas, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. A few have begun to live n Philadelphia.
So when the campaign began in earnest they were among the most interested, exhibiting even more interest than they would have done had they been living in Guyana.
I think that the primary reason that they were so interested was the fact that the Democratic candidate was someone with whom they could relate. He looked like them and he understood them having come from a father who lived in conditions similar to Guyana.
The polls predicted a victory for this man but there was some lingering doubt in my mind. People could promise all manner of things but once they get into the polling booth they could switch and do what comes naturally to them.
The analysts began to talk about states that carried he Republicans for the past eight years and suggested that for this man to win he had to carry one of those states. It is now history that he not only carried one; he carried three and is set to become the first African-American President of the United States, a mere four years after he entered political life and won a seat in the House of Senate to represent Chicago.
I was nervous for no other reason than I could be watching history; that I would see something that I doubted I would have ever seen in my lifetime.
Back in the 1970s a delegation from Guyana visited Zambia. At that time the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, Ian Smith, was preparing to hang six black men despite the fact that the Queen of England had ordered that these men be pardoned. Smith went ahead with the execution.
When the then Guyana Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson returned home he set about talking about the visit. I remember people saying to him that if he thought that their capital was beautiful he should see what existed “across the pond”.
I then asked him if a black man would ever rule Rhodesia and he replied that it would not happen in our lifetime. It not only happened in Rhodesia but also in South Africa, once the bastion of apartheid.
I have grandchildren who are born Americans. I also have nieces and nephews and cousins who are Americans by birth. The constitution stipulates that only people born in America could become president.
I looked at my descendants and other relatives and often said to myself that they did not stand a chance in hell of ever becoming president of the United States, not because they are not politically inclined but because of the colour of their skin.
I never expected to see a black man become President of the United States so you could imagine the reason for the goose bumps and the tears that hurt my eyes because I was in the office and I did not dare to let them flow.
Earlier that day my sister called me to share the excitement she felt when she went to vote. She spoke about the people turning out in their walkers and wheelchairs and with their canes and whatever aid they needed.
She spoke about the long lines and the determination of people, some of whom never voted before, to cast their ballot.
CNN came with the announcement at midnight that Barack Obama was projected to become the next president of the United States. All hell broke loose.
My last daughter, a 22-year-old, called me in glee and started to tell me that Obama had won and how excited she was and the tears were there.
It was the second time she was voting in that country and she told me about the reaction of the people—the honking of horns, the noisy celebrations in the streets and the tears.
I choked up as I heard her telling me these things but I dared not cry. My colleague, Michael Jordan had no such qualms. He had only one request of me. “Adam don’t go back inside as yet.” He too wanted someone with whom to savour the moment.
Like me, he knew that Mary Seacole, a black Jamaican, and not Florence Nightingale, should have been recorded as the Lady with the Lamp; he too knew that people like Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks and Tommie Smith and Don Carlos (two protesting athletes with the black power salute at medal time in the 1968 Olympics) and Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson all made sacrifices so that black people could stop being less than human beings.
On Friday, Barack Obama, at his first press conference confronted his ethnicity; “A mutt like me”. There is going to be a mutt (not of pure breed) in the White House and while nothing may change for Guyana, I have seen one more thing that I thought I never would have. I can now understand why some people say “never say never”.
And I remember being in the United States when the New York Rangers won the Stanley Cup, the symbol of ice hockey supremacy.
It had not won the trophy in 58 years so when one fan blurted out, “I can now die happy”, I immediately had that flashback. I too can now die happy.
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