As I sat there election night 11.4.08, 8pm CDT down in New Orleans, I momentarily found myself in an euphoric state of shock. I remembered the 2000 and 2004 election nights, so enough said. I began to think about the pride and joy of what my elders were feeling that night.
I thought about my previous 14 years on the Afromation Highway. I thought back to the Summer of 2004 when my mother was a Nebraska Delegate to the DNC in Boston. She injured her leg the day before she was to leave Omaha for the convention. She was not about to miss the National Democratic Convention! An event that would be the first major national security event since 9/11. It was the last place I would even think about going, but how could I let my mother go to the East Coast injured. So I met her there. The Nebraska Delegation was at the Tremont Hotel, along with the Louisiana Delegation, a southern state with the second highest percentage of African Americans; only South Carolina’s was higher. My father, my father’s father and my father’s father’s father were all born and raised in Webster Parish, Louisiana. Like the Woods men who came before me, the Louisiana Delegation was pretty reserved. I suppose I had seen one too many movies about the Big Easy, and may have been expecting umbrellas, beads and second lines. The reality was that the Louisiana Delegation had a powerful US Senator John Breaux, the junior US Senator Mary Landrieu and a ranking US Representative on the House Ways & Means Committee named William Jefferson. They were the Democratic Party.
The Nebraska Delegation was partying in the hospitality suite every night. During the day times, Nebraska junior US Sen. Ben Nelson would stroll through the Tremont checking on his fellow Nebraskans. The First Lady of the State of Maine Karen Balducci accepted an invitation from “Nebraska’s Democratic Divas” to a tea party at the Tremont; which in 2004 meant you drank tea. Rep. John Lewis stopped by. We were having a great time. I guess coming from a Western solidly Republican state, the small delegation of Nebraska
Democrats were just happy to be at the big dance showing their support for the big ticket. It was arguably the most expensive party in the history of the world (until the RNC in NYC a week or two later). A Howard University-educated lobbyist, from a bond market association, told me that this was the “Superbowl of Lobbying”. So I donned my lobbying hat and starting pushing my agenda to integrate American History to anyone who would listen. “Hi, I am Michael Woods from Henderson, NV, and I represent the Afromation Coalition. Oh, the lady in the wheel chair, that’s my mother Nebraska Delegate and Douglas County Commissioner Carole Woods Harris.”
I quickly found out the you have to spend a lot of money to lobby. But then I started seeing all the causes outside of the Sheraton who did not have any money. I joined them. I pushed my mother to her sessions inside then would run outside to my spot where I held up my book AFROMATION.
Later that evening, 7.27.04, I would assist my mother to the convention assembly. We traveled by coach bus into a huge secured perimeter. Downtown Boston was on lockdown. The Big Dig belonged exclusively to us out-of-towners. Boston was now the center of the political world; but with the heightened security it was now a ghost town. When we arrived at the Fleet Center staging area I saw something that I will never forget. Just to the left of the security screening tents was the “Free Speech Zone“. All who went to the 2004 DNC know what I am talking about. There was just a dozen people in a barbed wire fenced in area the size of a segregated exercise cage at any prison USA, or Southern Cuba. It was a newer world order. Most of the convention goers paid them no mind, or maybe they took note as well.
Anyway, this was the DNC. Kerry-Edwards was the ticket. It was on. Guests of a delegation, like myself, shared passes that allowed one of us at a time on to the convention floor. I saw Sen. Ted Kennedy give his speech from the nose-bleed section.
Then I received word that it was now my turn to enter the convention floor. I asked my mother who was speaking next. She replied Illinois State Senator Barack Obama. I said to myself, oh yeah, the young brother from Chicago Southside running for the US Senate. The next thing I know I am listening to the best delivered introduction to national audience speech ever. I was so proud of him. He nailed it. The Nebraska delegation began waiving Obama signs. The South Carolina Delegation which was sitting just to the left of us began waiving Obama signs. The signs just said “OBAMA”. It was like I was an eye witness to the launch of a brand. The Fleet Center was rocking. You would have thought Paul Pierce had just made a 3-pointer to win a NBA Finals Game 6 against the Lakers to tie the series at 3-3, or something. The Democrats were fired up. Mama was fired up. I was fired up. I stood up and began waiving my copy of Afromation. Then I had to leave the convention floor so another guest of the Nebraska Delegation could come on to the convention floor and hear the next speaker.
The following day there were more events and bigger names to focus on like Sharpton, Clinton, Edwards and the star of the convention Sen. John Kerry. I shook James Carville‘s hand on his way to a table in the Sheraton ballrooms’ lobby where he signed copies of his book Had Enough?. As I turned around, there was Donna Brazile. I got the chance to speak with her about her book Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics. She was so nice. It got me to thinking about my next book. But what would I write about???
Well, Mom’s leg got better no longer needing assistance, so I decided to leave the day of Sen. John Kerry’s acceptance speech. I caught an almost empty United Airlines 757 out of Logan to San Francisco Int’l Airport. Yes, the events of 9/11 crossed my mind for a moment, then who comes and sits in front of me but Jerry Brown and his people. The mayor of Oakland and the former Governor of California. The first national candidate that I know of to promote a campaign website. We got to talking about Oakland. I introduced him to AFROMATION and autographed a copy for him (he would later send me a thank you note).
Somewhere over the Northern Great Plains, the pilot piped in Sen. Kerry’s acceptance speech so those passengers who wanted to hear it could by using their headsets. I listened for a little while, but I found myself wandering back to what I experienced two nights earlier. Did I know my mother and I were witnessing something magical the night Barack Obama gave the DNC keynote address? Yes we did!
Thirteen months later on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina would change everything…
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Obama Eight Years Later, 2012…