Posts Tagged ‘African-American’

You may want to pack a hankie before voting

October 23, 2008

2012 Election UPDATE: I need more hankies!!!!!! (in a good way)

I usually get a little choked up when I vote because there is nothing better than living in a country where citizens can choose their leaders. But I don’t think I’ve ever sobbed afterward until today, after I voted in my hometown of Durham, NC. We’re in a blue county in a red state, which, because of Obama, may this year become a blue state for the first time since 1976. So the nation’s eyes are upon us.

The ballot for the 2008 US presidential elections

The ballot for the 2008 US presidential elections

But politics aside (as much as possible), here’s what I witnessed. As I arrived at the crowded voting location (we have several and they’ve been crowded since early voting started here last week) I was shown to a parking spot by one of the many election volunteers. About half the volunteers were black, which also reflects our diverse population here in Durham (45% black, 45% white, 10 percent Latino).

As I walked in to vote, there was a big round of applause for a 20-something Hispanic-looking woman. While she turned in her completed ballot, a volunteer yelled: “First-time voter! First-time voter!” That was enough to get me choked up.

One of seven voting stations in Durham that allowed early voting

One of seven voting stations in Durham, NC that was open for early voting

But to see all the African Americans volunteering and voting, I kept thinking, what must it be like to see a black presidential candidate on the ballot? And to finally feel you’re a part of the process? Then I remembered, oh, yeah, I’m a woman and haven’t seen a female presidential candidate in the final vote. I do know what’s it like. But not really. I’m a white, middle-class woman, and it ain’t the same. When I went to school in NC in the ’60s and ‘70s, schools were still segregated, and lord knows what else was that I didn’t notice. So though I’m still waiting for a female president, at least I’ve lived to see the day where a black man can run for and perhaps even win a US presidential race. How cool is that?

The "I voted early" sticker

The “I voted early” sticker

After I cast my ballot and collected my “I voted early” stickers, I walked out just behind another “First-time voter!” “First-time voter!” this time an older black man. That was enough to keep me in my car for a few extra minutes, until I could see to drive.

Civil rights beyond MLK weekend

January 18, 2008

If you’re interested in the Civil Rights movement, including information on visiting historic sites, there’s a wonderful book just out called “On the Road to Freedom: A Guide Tour of the Civil Rights Trail,” by Charles E. Cobb Jr. (Algonquin, $18.95). The sub-sub-title is: “The Marches, the Book cover On The Road To FreedomStruggles, the Triumphs, Speeches, Profiles, 150 Photos, Maps, Web Sites, and 400 Historic Sites.” Unfortunately, there’s no accompanying website, but the book is absolutely worth buying to learn about black history and civil rights sites in DC and the South.

Author Cobb will be touring in DC and the South almost daily through February and a bit beyond.

It’s funny. Folks talk about how racist the South is, but I’ve lived in the Tampa, Fla., and Boston areas, and now Durham, NC, and Durham is by far the most integrated place I’ve experienced. And it’s interesting, isn’t it, that the majority of Black Enterprise Magazine’s “Ten Best Cities for African Americans” are in the South. (None are in the north!) This makes me proud.

Absolutely, the South has had more than its share of atrocities. Like the 1898 Wilmington Race Riot, where riots broke out after blacks registered to vote and some 22 people were reported dead, all black. Only this year did our state leaders express “profound regret” about that awful chapter in history. Growing up in Raleigh in the ’60s, I remember how segregated we were. I was bussed to an “inner city” junior high school, which for me was an eye-opening experience.

After moving back to North Carolina in 2003, and especially since living in racially mixed Durham, I’ve been much more aware of the fight for black equality here, and have visited many sites, including the former Woolworth department store in Greensboro, where on Feb. 1, 1960, four students held one of the first sit-ins; and Parrish Street, aka “Black Wall Street,” the commercial strip in Durham that was home to many black-owned enterprises. There’s now an advocacy group working on the Parrish Sreet Project to commemorate its history and spur economic revitalization along a central downtown corridor. You can learn all about it during Preservation Durham’s free walking tours April through November.  So y’all come on over for a spell.