Obama, Harlem and Crab Fritters!
Scene: Harlem, New York
Date: November 4th, 2008
Event: Barack Obama elected at the 44th President Of The United States.
That event changed my life. I was a young Investment Advisor, with wavy hair, a killer wardrobe much better than my Boss and a penchant for designer sneakers. I spend a few years bouncing around various firms on Wall Street after being a burnt out, stressed out Stockbroker. Fed up with the industry, I was looking for a new career that would make me feel like I was accomplishing something.
I wanted to feel like I was making a difference, because I wasn’t. I was to busy being busy. I wasn’t broke, I was irresponsible with money.
Too busy trying to fit in instead of standing out.
But this night, I reached found an epiphany.
As the Election Coverage rolled on, the tension at Mobays Lounge was palpable (the best Crab Fritters I’ve even had). I felt like I was just casted as an extra on A Different World.
That was Black Excellence before it became hashtag #BlackExcellence.
State after state had gone for Obama, whom I saw just a few months before at the Apollo Theater and sadly didn’t know who he was. I heard the rapper Common mention his name in a song, but I was too consumed with the daily ticker on CNBC’s Squawk Box on to be knowledgeable about politics.
When CNN has declared Obama to winner, I went into a trance. Somehow my feet were still on the plush pavement but I was definitely floating. I hugged total strangers. Even collected a few numbers of a few who could have been my leading Lady, if I’d called them back.
I walked through Harlem all night. There were honks and sirens and fist pumps and two stepping and full bellied bellows from the streets. I stayed out all night. No really, all night. I finally stumbled into a Diner in the wee hours of the morning because I didn’t want to sleep. I literally bounced around, bar hopping until the Sun came up. And I wasn’t alone. The streets were packed! I wish I could teleport my body to every black neighborhood in the country just to see if the tears flowed the same on different faces.
It was like a racial apocalypse and people suddenly didn’t see color. I saw people from all races and background hugging, crying, shouting, dancing in the streets. It was sanctified and I couldn’t grasp the sensation. There was no precedent. My incandescent mind was not yet developed enough to understand the gravity of what just happened.
Sure I knew WHAT had happened but as I kept having conversations with strangers I realized the we are far more similar than we are different. At least in Harlem, a centerpiece for black culture, yet it was slowly meandering towards a new gentrified destination for yuppies and hipsters.
I went to work the next day, but my spirit was still on Lenox Avenue.
I eventually quit the Wall Street hamster wheel, and I got a job as a canvasser with the #WorkingFamiliesParty. Welcome To Brooklyn!
I got a job making ten bucks a hour to knock on doors for then Councilman Jumaane Williams, now NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Then I took an assignment working for them Councilman Bill de Blasio , now NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
And just like that I was a Community Organizer, or whatever I told my Mom I was doing now.
And just what, I haven’t looked back since!
Now I help run campaigns getting good people elected and became a consultant to change makers and active advocate to many causes that I care about.
No, my hair is no longer wavy but I’m still dressed to the 9's and still love my Prada sneakers.
And yes, I finally found that career that makes me feel like I accomplished something.
And I did.
And I am…
And I ain’t stopping!