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Sharing Obama's Historical Moment with My Father

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary, Donny Lumpkins Posted: Jun 05, 2008

Editor's Note: Barack Obama's historical ascendancy to Democratic presidential nominee marks one of the first positive "life-changing moments" that this commentator shared with his father. Donny Lumpkins is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

I try and think of all of the moments in my life where an event actually altered my surroundings. Im taking about moments where everything changes. When I think hard, I can think of four things in particular (not in any specific order): moving from Sacramento to Boston when I was 4 years old, 9/11, the last episode of Friends and the day I got my job. To most, some of these things are more paramount than others, but for me these were the big difference makers in my life.

My father, who was born in 1948, has gone through a lot more earth-shattering moments. His list of life-shaping events runs as long as and vibrant as the lines of candles will on his next birthday cake. He remembers things I can hardly imagine like segregated water fountains, all white beaches and being drenched by high-powered water hoses turned on rebellious youth.

He remembers when the Dream was just that, something you have to be asleep to believe. He saw the assassinations of peacemakers, looted local business during the Boston riots, smoked weed during the summer of love and was the water boy for the golden age of the Boston Celtics. My father put up with my mothers parents pulling shotguns on him because they said he was too dark to date her. He saw the advent of the TV, the microwave, the first step on the moon, the ATM, the washing machine, the computer, the Internet and more.

But now my father and I have both have a new date to put in our life-changing days folder: We can say we have seen the first black man to become an official nominee for president of the United States of America. On Tuesday night, I was at Urban Outfitters, looking through things I really dont need when I got a call. It was from my father. Usually when my father calls me out of the blue something bad has happened. Last time he called me unprompted, Heath Ledger died, before that Anna Nicole Smith. So, when I saw dad pop-up on my little screen, my stomach dropped. When I answered it, all my father said is, "He did it," and I knew exactly what he meant.

Since the Iowa primary, my father and I would talk about what it would mean for Obama to win the Democratic nod. It was always a big what if in our conversations, like What if the Celtics and Lakers end up in the finals? or What if aliens lived under the Bay? Before it happened, the chance that Obama might win the nomination was up there as something we couldnt exactly believe would happen.

But on Tuesday, June 3, 2008, Barack Obama secured the Democratic nomination, and millions of people around the world got a new historical moment. In St. Paul, Minn., Obama addressed the end to the long primary season, and the (perhaps momentary) destruction of the glass ceiling a lot of black politicians have come up against. He said, "Tonight we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another a journey that will bring a new and better day to America." Words like that can send chills down the most cynical of spines.

Dont get me wrong, I know that just because he is a step closer to the presidency does not mean that all racism is gone in America. But today, Im not worried about that. Today, all I can think about is my father and how happy he was on his side of the phone. He has lived some 60 years full of change and progression and Im sure there had to be a time when he and a lot of other people had given up and said: "Well, maybe this is how it has to be." But now, all that is different. From now on, if a little black kid stands up in class and says he wants to be president, it isnt just a pipe dream. Now, it feels like it can really happen.

Im glad my father and I can share something like this. It means a lot to me for him to see that as a young black man, I can succeed in this world if I try hard enough. Last night, Obama proved that to the both of us.

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