Saturday, November 15, 2008

Grateful thoughts the day after Obama's victory

I was in a call center at the Oakland Convention Center with over 2000 volunteers at a 36 hour phone bank which on election day started at 4 AM and was to end at midnight. We officially stopped calling at 8 PM PST, and our group at that facility made over 83,000 calls just that day. I started sobbing uncontrollably when they said that Pennsylvania had been won, because of the terrible and hard work we did in the Pococos in the last 6 years and in the last election. I well remember 2004, being the poll watcher at PCP from 6 AM to midnight, and then finding out that Kerry had conceded...

When they said Obama had won I did not believe it, although I could not stop sobbing. Don’t think when I say sobbing that it was just a tear here and there. I was wracked by sobs, tremendous body-wrenching sobs. I remember that I was hugged by a woman who was walking by; we were both sobbing and screaming and we didn't know each other, but we hugged as if we had been best sisters or best friends... and I still could not believe it until McCain gave his concession speech. The hall went insane... more than a thousand people, yours truly included, screaming and crying and laughing and dancing and singing and screaming some more, and clapping their hands and their feet...

What a night this was... what a day, week, month, year, almost decade... How scared I was, as I made call after call, that there would be some trickery and we would be told it had not happened...

But yes, my lovely hermanos y hermanas, señor Barack Obama is the next Presidente of the United States, God bless him and God bless us all!

I came home exhausted but so excited it took hours for me to go to sleep... Sitting at a table with people of all ages, last night I made over 300 calls for our new President, and in the previous days and weeks I had made hundreds more. Earlier on I had the flu, so I was calling from home from both Obama's campaign website and site; I had a bottle of cough medicine at my side because I had bronchitis, and the constant calls were not helping my hacking cough. Many many of the voters I spoke to, who were either voting for Obama or had voted, were in their nineties. I spoke to one woman who was 96 and she said (before the election was called) that she had her umbrella ready to whip some butts if Obama didn't win. She reminded me so much of my beloved Rev. Mary Alice Brown from Unity Church in Teaneck, New Jersey, a feisty 84 year-old Iowan who made us godly with lovely rebuke, that I had to laugh out loud, and I spent some extra time on the phone with her.

I voted early after a 2 hour wait on Monday, because I had been asked to come to the Oakland phone bank early in case we had to speak to Spanish voters. I had no breakfast or lunch on Monday, and none on Tuesday until 2:30 PM, after I had made enough calls that I considered I could take a break to go to the bathroom and eat something.

I made calls sitting next to people of all color and all ages, from the very young to the very old. On Monday my last calling mate was a girl my daughter’s age who came from Fiji. She promised to come to Oakland on Tuesday (we had been making calls at the Dem. HQ Fremont phone bank) AFTER she drove a large number of seniors in a building near her, ages 69 to her own great grandmother who was in her eighties, to the polls. They wanted to be there at 7 AM when the polls opened, and so she said she would see me on Tuesday sometime after 11 AM, which she did! Before that I was across the table with an Indian doctor a bit younger than me... My last two calling mates last night, who may become friends forever, and both of whom I drove home after the event, honking my horn and holding balloons out, were 68 and 56. The 56 year-old was an African-American woman named Mary Helen who had come to the phone bank after a grief counseling session for her mother, who passed away recently, and whom Helen mourns deeply. Kathleen, an Irish woman with whom I shared lunch at a very cheap Sushi place that day, could not read the numbers on the lists well because she forgot her reading glasses, so she called slowly, got a headache, and kept on calling. We hugged and screamed and I jumped up and down the way I do when I am excited, and we promised to call each other and to get together again. We sang in the elevator and in the parking lot, and are probably still singing inside.

I have never been so proud to be a US American. Later in the day two women came with a massage chair and blankets to massage staff and those of us who had been working all day, and I had my first foot shiatsu, and I was in a lot of pain because I have been holding accumulated anger, rage and frustration for at least the past six years. At Pocono Progressives, my buddies and I built up an organization in a right wing section of Pennsylvania before the war and up to today, which mobilized the vote. Sue Lyons, whom I called twice last night, reminded me of all this work. I was sobbing on her phone when Pennsylvania was first announced as being for Obama, because it has been such a hard, bitter struggle, and I could not believe it. All my wonderful friends in Pennsylvania pounded the pavement and burned the phone lines in this election as in the last!

When I was a very young 12 years old, just arrived from Cuba and struggling with the language, with my nostalgia and with a student council election which I WAS winning until the whole racial thing rose up in my school, I was spit on the face by the mother of a fellow student. It was the first time ever I was ever called a Spick, and at the time I did not know the word but I did recognize her hatred and revulsion. I was only 12. It was fearsome to have left my family and my beautiful native land behind, and this unreasoning hatred did much to mar my first year in the United States. Well, last night that spit finally started to be wiped from my face. Heaven knows I have held on to that memory for 47 years... and I think it is part of what kept me going during this election and during my struggles against social injustice and this war, and although I know we will have to continue to struggle for the environment and civil rights and so many other issues and against the war, I was so proud, relieved, humble, joyous, amazed, hopeful, as I have ever been.

Last night you may say that I, Silvia Antonia Guillermina Brandon y Pérez, was born again.

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