While the nation and world will now turn their attention toward President Barack Obama‘s next term as president, NewsOne cannot fully commemorate the President’s win without acknowledging what his decisive victory meant to both Africans throughout the diaspora four years ago this week.
In 2008, the financial crisis made the selection of this nation’s 44th president a grave endeavor: Banks needed bailing out, housing markets crashed, stock markets turned downward, and unemployment rose to unprecedented heights. So in the final days leading up to the presidential election, many wondered who would be able to lead this country out what would come to be called the “Great Recession.”
On November 4, 2008, then-Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama would deliver an unfathomable shellacking to GOP presidential nominee John McCain, with Obama earning a deafening 365 electoral votes to McCain’s 173. Nearly from the beginning, Obama would clinch key battleground states, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, and New Mexico. And by 11:15 p.m., McCain would be forced to concede that he had lost to what would become this nation’s first Black president.
And at the news, people took to the streets. Not just in major cities in Chicago, Atlanta, New York, and L.A., but throughout the world in Kenya, Indonesia (pictured right, Obama’s grade school), Ghana, the Philippines, Shanghai, and London.
And the significance of the historic presidential benediction was not lost on African Americans, who were slaves in this country only 147 short years ago.
Through the Emancipation Proclamation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, and the infamously failed and debilitating Drug War, no, the significance of having a Black president with a Black wife and Black children was not lost on us at all.
Who could dream of having a Black man in the highest office in the nation and world?
None other than Dr. Martin L. King Jr. who once, after being asked about whether this nation would ever see a “Negroe president,” predicted that this nation would indeed have one sooner than later:
Well, let me say first that I think it is necessary to make it clear that there are Negroes who are presently qualified to be president of the united states. There are many who are qualified in terms of integrity, in terms of vision, in terms of leadership ability.
I am very optimistic about the future. Frankly, I’ve seen certain changes in the United States that have surprised me…. So on the basis of this, I think we should be able to get a Negro president in less than 40 years. I think we should be able to get a Negro president in 25 years or less.
Watch Dr. King’s insightful prediction here:
To Africans outside of America (pictured below is Obama’s step-grandmother in Kenya at the news her grandson had won), Obama symbolized a dramatic turn in our collective historical narrative. While the triumphs and exploits of ancient Egyptians, Caribbean maroons, Haiti’s Toussaint L’Ouverture, and the proud and prominent communities of Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street and Florida’s Rosewood have been denied, stifled, and purposely rewritten, Obama’s win COULD NOT be misconstrued, retold, or ignored.
The new age of the Obamas in the White House, which was built by slaves, was irreversibly etched in to annals of history never to be denied again, causing Obama’s famous mantra “Yes, we can” to reverberate around the world.
Watch Will.i.am’s Emmy-award-winning “Yes, we can” tribute here:
For Africans directly from the continent, in particular, Obama represented a stark contrast to the negative stereotype that all Black leaders are selfish, sadistic dictators and parasites that only look to harm and disenfranchise their people. Obama’s presidential win spurred Africans, who are usually divided by country and klan due to culture, language, politics, and neo-colonialism, to unite and celebrate across the continent from Kenya to Uganda to South Africa to Nigeria. Obama also became an immediate benchmark for African leaders to follow.
Once it was announced that Obama would indeed become President of these United States, our collective hopes and dreams shot through the roof. Who could tell us what we could and could not accomplish? The sky was now the limit, with Obama and his family providing a concrete model of achievement.
Don’t believe me? Check Young Jeezy’s “My President” with Nas, when they emotionally rhymed:
Tell him I’m doin’ fine, Obama for mankind We ready for damn change, so y’all let the man shine Stuntin’ on Martin Luther ’cause I’m feelin’ just like a king Guess this is what he meant when he said that he had a dream…So I’m sittin’ here right now man, it’s June 3rd, 2:08 a.m. Nigga, I won’t say win, lose or draw man We congratulate you already homie See I motivate the thugs right, you motivate us homie That’s what it is, this a hands on policyYa’ll touchin’ me right n*gga, yeah, first Black president Win, lose or draw n*gga, matter of fact, you know what it is, man Shouts out Jackie Robinson, Booker T Washington homie Oh y’all ain’t think I knew that shit, Sidney Poitier, what they doMy president is Black, I’m important too
Watch it here:
As we look forward to the President’s next four years, our collective pride, possibility, and productivity only continues to be heightened.