If you haven’t heard of Damali Ayo yet…you have now!
She wrote an amazing open letter to the People of the United States of America (the “other PotUS”) about how we, the people, need to STAY INVOLVED in order to push for the changes we need: tax relief for normal folks, healthcare reform, energy independence, green-collar jobs, food security (or here to listen), universal access to higher education, etc. It’s on us — all of us. WE have work to do. Let’s do it together. The letter is below, in full.
Last night we elected this country’s first African American President.
Now, we have no black senators.
I say that not to bring the party to an end, but to remind us that this work is not complete with the election of a single man to our highest office. No doubt, this is an incredible moment and for sure, my heart races when I think of it -but mostly my heart races, not because Obama is black but because he is the first true leader I’ve seen in the entirety of politics in my life.
And though we gave him a “mandate” with our overwhelming vote- it is *our* mandate that I am most interested in as we move forward.
Last night at an election party during Obama’s acceptance speech one woman who had voted for him crankily growled at the TV “yeah, we’ve heard that all before….” another friend texted me “we need to keep him on his toes.” This is the side of our citizenry that disappoints me heartily. We are lazy and put responsibility on others instead of ourselves. We prefer to criticize rather than support. We elect a leader and within minutes of his first speech are ready to dis him and look for flaws. As an artist who holds a mirror up to our culture as my primary work, I hope that we can hold a mirror up to ourselves and realize that changing this country around is not the sole responsibility of our elected leaders, but is truly our responsibility too. They may be able to change the policies, but only we can change our real lives, our relationships, our attitudes, our beliefs and our behavior.
Instead of sitting back and waiting for how this new leader will screw up, let’s envision, and then created a new, better country worthy of a leader of Obama’s caliber.
As Gandhi said, let’s become the change we seek in the world.
Let’s not stop at having one person of color at the head of our country but instead integrate our entire government, executive, legislative and judicial branches to represent all aspects of the citizenry.
Let’s give Washington DC, a 65% black city, a vote in our government.
Let’s challenge ourselves not only to vote for one black president, but to make real relationships across races and enhance our lives beyond our ballot.
Let’s eliminate the n-word from our culture. (I was called that on the street only two weeks ago).
Let’s make an even stronger effort to listen to the stories and experiences of people of color rather than ask them to be silent now that “one of them” is president. (something I also heard recently).
Let’s no longer be afraid to examine how racism continues to be at play on a day-to-day level, admit where we lack trust and relationships and work to build those relationships and regain trust in the people with whom we share this country.
Let’s realize that the evolution within us is crucial to evolving the world around us.
And much more- we can do much more, we can be much more.
One of the things that strikes me about Barack Obama is that he is not in this office for selfish reasons. He does not seek fame, credit, or praise. He is in this to effect a change in the country that he values and for the people of that country for which he cares. We elected him not only to take us there but to serve as an example for how we can all operate in our world- to be our role model- not for the little black children that can look up to him and know they can be like him and be president, but for each and every one of us- that can look up to him and know that *we* can be like him, that we can be better leaders, better citizens, better human beings to each other.
This is the change we need.
This is what I mean when I say “Yes We Can.”