I think when I was a kid I was proud to be American. Well, when I wasn’t adamant about being Cuban. With the hours and hours of watching TV I believed I lived in the greatest country in the world. I am not sure when that changed for me, when things started to shift but I remember my social studies project in third grade. From the newspaper I cut out images of Jesse Jackson, Michael Jackson (this was me in third grade, remember Thriller) and I can’t remember who else and pasted them on construction paper. In big letters I wrote, “Black people are better than white people.” This was my way of saying I was pissed off about discrimination. No one said anything to me about it in school. It hung up in the hallway outside my classroom with the other social studies assignments from my classmates.
In the third grade I realized that everything that I was taught about this country was all wrong. In the third grade I wanted to make changes. I used to dream about being rich when I got older to build parks in Brooklyn with grass and trees. I wanted to build housing complexes, jobs and support systems for the homeless. This was the eighties, this was the Reagan era, this was when homelessness became such a big impact in our society.
Then there were times that I didn’t know how to change things. I stopped saying the pledge of allegiance, I stopped saying my prayers. The dream was no longer a dream.
I went to the first Immigrants Rights Rally in Oakland, CA a few years back on May Day. 2006, I didn’t take off from work but I got out early enough to not miss it. I marched by myself wearing brown forgetting that I should have worn white. I was on the sidelines looking at everyone. In awe with everyone. I never saw so many brown people waving American flags. I began marching, I began chanting, I began crying and it was then that I became proud. Not with the country that imposes unethical laws on immigrants and dominates economics in a way that destablizes poorer countries. No, I was proud of all the people that were not going to let themselves get deported, that would go out and work everyday to feed their families, that believed they too deserved the dream. I had emotions seeing the American flag waved. Not totally understanding how I would write about this experience I have just played it in my head over and over again.
Then last night happened. Last night we elected a new president for the United States of America, we elected Barack Obama. Watching CNN Español with my dad and brother, I figited thinking that if he does win there will be a fraud. If he does win we wouldn’t hear about it that night. He’s gonna win, he’s not gonna win. What’s gonna happen? What’s gonna happen? I kept on going into my room to pray. We kept on talking about not understanding why the popular vote doesn’t win. I kept on saying I have to read up on that again. I say that every four years and forget. My brother left not wanting to wait the results with us. Papi had to get up in the morning at 3:30am but I asked him to stay up anyway. And finally 297 electoral votes came in. And we screamed and we cried and we hugged and he went to bed. I stayed up longer talking to friends and making promises that I hope I can keep. Like for Barack Obama I will jog twice a week coz I gotta be more healthy for my country. Like, I wanna put a picture of Barack Obama in my home like my aunt does with Fidel. I gotta see him to remember to pray for him everyday. Like, I will start paying my taxes again. Like I will totally shift, and be more frugal and do even more to make this world a better place. And on the couch watching folks celebrate in Atlanta I sang the Star Spangled Banner with them. I haven’t sang that song since I was a kid, since before I boycotted the pledge of allegiance, since before I stopped saying my prayers.
I hardly slept last night. Today as I watch the news my hands shake and I keep on crying. I am not the only one. I am not the only one that feels like this. People say that they hope he will stick to his promises. I hope that WE stick to our promises. The mess that this country is in, that the world is in is not a one man job to clean up. We all have to do it. We all have to make changes. It will be difficult, we will run through obstacles but we must preservere. It is a time like this that I am thankful that I am closer to God. And I believe that more and more people are choosing their paths. We are refocusing. We are wanting to be more grounded. I love this moment right now. In this moment there is so much hope. In this moment I know that we can achieve anything. This present moment is such a gift.