Wednesday, February 6, 2008


I get up and begin to do my thing. I have several choices, the celebration for the Superbowl winning Giants down in the Canyon of Champions or as the media puts it, Canyon of Giants, spend a day on the phone calling family and friends or spend a day walking about the town taking pictures and voting. Since I haven’t done the walking thing in a while, I decided to exercise. I decided to gear up in my Neo-Soul look and head outside when I look to the sky and see that it’s a mess. It’s cloudy, slight wind and raining. Rain coming down in a steady flow in an amazing SPRING in WINTER day. (I swear the World is coming to and end.) Not too heavy but a constant light fall. I initially was going to head back up for an umbrella and travel by train or bus but there is something about walking in the rain that is cleansing. The notion of Baptizing oneself was what I think I needed today. So I decided with the need to clear my mind and offer it for the day to fill it with ideas for creating something new, I begin my journey by foot. I picked up my camera and began to hoof in for the day.

I took my time and looked at all the new construction in the area. I made a conscious thought to look each and every person I pass, in the eyes. I know in some circles, this would be only unsettling and a bit of a challenge, even crazy but it also spills their story out to those open enough to catch them. It only takes a quick moment. A bit of shyness, a fragment of fear, a second of sadness, a smidgen of hope and you can see it in-between the whites of the eyes. People have stories that they want to tell and sometimes you have to snatch it out from a glance. OK, that’s the poet it me talking, I don’t really be stanching shyt, BUT I am in tuned to people through body language and the first place to look are the eyes.

Around town you see nothing but the signs of expansion. New housing and streets being torn up for more wiring and gas lines, I see more express trucks rolling through now than ever before (a product of online shopping no doubt) and street cleanings. Police officers are now walking in small groups as oppose to single and double file, and where there were once street signs to dictate when and where you can and can’t park, I see meter maids placing tickets on cars that have over stayed their allowed time where parking meters line residential streets. Yes ladies and gentleman, this Tuesday seemed more like a Monday after failing to hold back the sun.

Now I soon find out that my Polling area where I normally vote has changed. So instead of voting at an area that was once close, I now had to go a little further out. I think under any other circumstance it would have bothered me but I was being BAPTIZED along my journey so nothing was bothering me today. I walked along Broadway to my new voting location and noticed, another store front shop has gone out of business. I can only guess who he's NOT voting for today. As I walk I recall a poem I wrote several years back. The poem, ELECTION DAY, was inspired by hearing stories of how BLACKS, as early as my parent’s generation, were denied the right to vote. The social and political GAMES both Northern and Southern Whites played to manipulate Blacks, using threats and even murder to bar them from the Right to Vote. How the Klan and White Supremist would lynch Blacks that would even talk about participating in voting. The idea of creating Poll Taxes, Freedom Papers, Land Ownership, Birth Certificates and other “legal documents” have evolved out of that time into new forms. Today the new ploys are NATIONAL ID’s, Citizenship Verification, Chads and Computerized Voting Booths (knowing damn well that the average person can barely work an ATM machine) and a host of other radical changes. The very fact that my polling location was changed without my advanced notice is a little suspect but, I am being baptized by the rains so I move along without tension.

I am snapped into reality and see that many of the people I am passing on the street, aren’t even attempting to vote or registered to vote. I wonder what percentage CAN’T vote due to legal wrangling? Still, as I walk up Broadway, how many of my Brown Brothers and Sisters can’t vote because they are not legal citizens. YES I dare say it, there are a lot of ILLEGAL ALIENS walking the streets of Harlem, Washington Heights and Inwood and even more true, they cannot vote. As deep as these thoughts would be normally, I am being baptized today by the rains and I move on to my destination without a care. I get to my new spot. IRONICLY, the location is at Boricua College, an institution dedicated to the education of Spanish Speaking college students, and get this, the campus is the old site of the Native American Museum of New York which was closed down and moved to LORD KNOWS WHERE NOW. Talk about an AMERICAN DREAM.

As I walk into the building, it was very quite. Let me repeat, as I walked in, it was VERY QUIET. This isn’t normal for polling locations. I have lived in several places around the United States and I normally see people out front handing out flyers, waving banners, a few news and newspaper reporters asking your typical “exit polling” questions and today, all I got was, “This way” and “Where do you live sir?”

After I answered I was pointed in the direction I was suppose to go. As I enter into the room, I am surprised that there wasn’t a line. I simply walked up to my designated table and gave my name, showed ID and was pointed to THE BOOTH. As the curtains closed behind me, giving me the shadowed privacy I needed, I looked up that the five names before me. Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and a few dozen other names that were the delegates connected to each candidate. I looked for a place to do a write-in candidate. I figured I could throw my name on the ballot as the “None of the Above” candidate. I didn’t see it. So like the good citizen I am, I made a choice. (LIKE I’M GOING TO TELL YOU WHO I VOTED FOR).

I throw back the lever and the light of the World came back. It was over, in less than 30 seconds. The weight of the World has faded and I did what thousands of BLACK people have died and even more have sacrificed to do. And to show for it, I exited into a room of silence. As I walk toward the door, I thank the woman who processed my paper work for voting as she replied back, “I wish more young men like you voted.” I don’t know what made me more distinguished, the fact that she thanked me for exercising my RIGHT to vote or the fact she called me YOUNG. I’ll take them both.

I looked toward the streets of Harlem knowing that in the next few months, I’ll be here again but under different circumstances. Over the past eight years, my journey has lead me to great disappointments because like the people on the streets I passed, I get a sense that there is no urgency in participating in a government that will again DICTATE their existence, possibly for the next 8 years.

I take the long way back and cut through the park. In photographer mode I see a few compositional shots and decide to break out the camera. I see a few people near the exit of the park and I make my way toward them. I pass a woman and child. The child is wolfing down a pastry like no tomorrow while the woman is staring into the distance. The closer I get I can tell that neither one is even paying attention to me. I can also tell that in her blank expression, there is a sense of abandonment going on. She can be anything from a woman homeless and in a shelter, unemployed or abused. In her eyes she’s was searching and as much as I wanted to capture it on film, I decided to leave this family in their moment of privacy within the park. I continued along my way to two women further ahead. Both holding shopping bags and just standing in what looked like a friendly yet serious exchange of words. As I get closer I over hear their conversation.

If Obama is an agent of change, what change has he done in say, CHICAGO that would make me feel guilty for voting for Hillary Clinton? Tell me because I use to live in Chicago on the Southside and is worst now than ever before. But that Northside is doing well you know.”

Now I lived in Chicago for a few years and to be fair to my experience and in my time there, all I observed in the politics of the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois was a lot of corruption. I didn't see much CHANGE happening except more BLACK getting the poor, arrested, killed, harassed, marginalized to the far outskirts of the city while the cities expanded with businesses, homes and foreign investors. JUST MY OBSERVATION.

The other woman responds back, “He is only one man and he has done a lot from what I heard. Maybe for him to do more he needs to be in a higher position to make a CHANGE."

You still ain't said nothing solid.” Said the first woman.

I’m not just voting just for Barak Obama, I’m voting for the World. The whole World wants Obama to be President”, the second woman tell her.

Now as I continue to pass by I am working my body in one direction while dragging my ear behind to get the end of this JUICY DEBATE.

The second woman goes on to say, “People in Africa are jumping for joy knowing that one of theirs will be President of the United States?"

OK, maybe I missed something during the campaign. I don’t understand how Africans think Obama is their President and how is he going to make their lives better? Now I do know that as part of the Trinity United Church of Christ, the church Obama belongs to, their 4th tenet is, "A congregation with a non-negotiable COMMITMENT TO AFRICA", does this mean that on DAY ONE, the Africa agenda will take precedent over all other World concerns? If so, does that mean Africans see Obama as being more African than American and who will tell Americans about this? Do Africans see their freedoms from oppression usurping Blacks in the rural South or urban North? Will this be the beginning to the long delayed Marcus Garvey movement BLACK TO AFRICA? Does this mean that AFRICANS see themselves as different and apart from BLACKS in America? (I’m departmentalizing that theory for another Blog for another time.)

It’s in the Bible, Obama will make things right in the world”, the second woman continues.

I think to myself, “ONE OF THEIRS? OBAMA IN THE BIBLE?” She said this as if Obama’s THE MASSIAH. That disturbed me big time. It disturbed me more because I recall not too long ago, the Evangelicals said the same thing about George W. Bush Jr. and reasoned it as to why the United States was in Iraq. This too was written in the Bible. Since when do each President of the United States start being part of the dogmatic fiber of the Good Book? I must have missed this in Bible Study. My fear is that all the condemning of the Evangelicals will soon be replaced by fear of the BAPTIST.

I walk about a dozen or more blocks and pass another polling station in Harlem as I move down toward 135th Street and Convent Avenue when I hear, “OBAMA!OBAMA! OBAMA!”, chanting outside the polling area with this little short WHITE guy slipping me a polling advertisement detailing Barak Obama and the delegates connected to him before of I would go in. I think to myself, “Now this is what I was expecting.” But then it dawned on me. Where I had voted was a majority Latino community and here is all Black with a few gentrified Whites. Hummmmm? I finallyget it. This is that Barak Obama comes to the Apollo crowd. So I watched a little as the BLACK folk danced, rapped and shouted the name Barak Obama like an Elder Chief of the African Plains. I couldn’t help but recall just how the very same people danced and twirled for Bill Clinton 8 years ago.

Then this tall older Black Man stood next to me as I was taking pictures. He asked if I worked for the press. I told him not, that I was just walking around taking pictures. We chatted a little as I told him my story as to where I had to go to vote. He responded back, in a Conspiracy Theory type way, “You know Obama is a Republican in Clintonian Clothing.”

I stopped with the camera then looked at this man in PURE astonishment. I said to myself, "OK NOW LET ME HEAR THIS ONE OUT." Now let me tell you this, I love a good Conspiracy Theory, its like going to the movies to see a good Sci-Fi or Horror. You know going in that everything you see is pure fantasy, BUT you just might get caught up in some of the reality aspects which would make the whole experience worth your while. Then you can walk up into a movie that is so REAL, that once you leave, YOU START KEEPING LIGHTS ON IN THE HOUSE.

He goes on to say, “He may act the part of a Democrat but his intentions are that of a Republican. Not like the Bushes, He’s more reserved than that. He’s pure Business, more like a Corporate Lawyer. Everything he does has an agenda for profit and moving it to the right hands. The thing is he needed to be polished enough to talk the talk and walk the walk that is why he has a lot of ex-Clinton people working around him. Trust me, Obama is a Republican and in a few years, you’ll see it. Just like these people didn’t see Bill Clinton's coming when he moved up here in Harlem, they will see that he’s not as BLACK as they are praising him to be.

All I could say after that was, “Wow, now that's food for thought”. I told himit was nice talking to him but I had to leave, and I hurried out of there just in case their were SNIPPERS on the roof aiming for his BLACK ASS. I mean I have heard what the Bush Administration does with people with arab names and WATER, I can only imagine what other GOTHIC practices they had in store for someone like the TALL MAN.

The rains had stopped and my baptism was now over, I knew this because I was getting tired sooner than I thought and the Holden Caulfield in me was starting to come out. I walked on a little further and then decided to cut my journey short. I wanted to know what was going on in the world of my friends and family, which was a good balance I needed after a day of mental passivity.

1 comment:

dejanae said...

baptism by rain is quite calming
no qualms bout evesdropping huh?
long ass post but i like your writing style.