From Emmet to Obama

Back in Boston, I once interned in Northern Light Production. At that time, they were discussing a project about Civil Rights Movement and as an intern I get to sit in at the meetings. Now, I do know who Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr was and about segregation but I don’t know a lot about it, I have no idea who Selma was and what the Freedom Riders are all about, etc, so pretty soon I was lost in that meeting.

During lunch, I asked the consultant – bless her, I forgot her name – a black woman, about stuff they were talking about. She smiled and gave me some materials to read. It was heavy stuff. One story in particular, the Emmett Till incident, stuck with me. How could anyone be so cruel to a 14 year old child? Just for looking at a white woman! How could anyone commit such horrific crimes based on the colour of their skin? I had a lot of questions and the wise lady patiently answered my questions and gave me a crash course on the history of America’s Civil Rights Movement. Selma is not a person but the name of a place where they marched for their voting rights and Freedom Riders are volunteers, black and white, who tested the new anti-segregation law in public rides. On both occasion they got attacked, the former by the police and the later by angry mobs.

Those ‘lunch lectures’ stayed with me and so, as I watched Obama gave his speech at a Chicago Park, it reminds me of those lunch lectures. Yes, I know, he is voted in not solely based on his colour, it is more because of his vision, ideas and attitude. Just listen at his acceptance speech. Instead of being all out jubilant, he reminds his people that they are facing hard times ahead and that they will be met with hardship and difficulties but if they stick together they can change things – for the better, I hope – to which the crowd just burst into “Yes We Can!” chant.

Still, it is amazing how America can move in 40odd yearts from a nation whose people can beat a young boy senseless – and got away with it – into a nation who truly seeks a leader with qualities that would lead them out of their troubles and not merely looking at how they look. Of course racism don’t die away that easily, the Secret Service admits that they now work harder to ensure the safety of the president elect and his family so he doesn’t met with the same fate as JFK and 3 others.

I hope next year, when we elect our own president, we can take a leaf out of this book and choose a president truly based on his or her qualities. Cross fingers!

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