“Yute, it tek a Bison fi draw yuh into the Political Arena?” My response, “Yup.” Message response, “Waggonist.” After posting another clip about how Howard University has prepared Senator Kamala Harris for the role of Vice President, and in my opinion, possibly soon to be president, the comment was, “Yute yuh wagon have Turbo pon it tonight.”
The above WhatsApp discussion with a close friend last night was a pointed one. I rarely ever post anything about politics on any of my social media platforms. I find the dialogue that ensues from such a posting often exhausting and void of any real solutions. It is even worse when folks tend to use the gospel message and religion to advance their thinking. Taking scripture totally out of context to do so. Such interactions that are argued over keyboard exchanges always end up in the proverbial “mugs game.’ A waste of time really.
When it comes to any political discourse for me, I ascribe to, and will always remain with the notion that we must simply get out and vote. Our forefathers fought and bled for us to have that right, and we should exercise it. Folks who do not vote, I have no patience for in terms of them complaining of how difficult things seem. Make your vote count. It is that simple. I do not tell people how to vote because that takes me down a rabbit hole that is deep with little avenues for escape for me to come out of it with my sanity intact. The older I get, the more I like to preserve brain cells for things that are meaningful and has impact for me and those attached to me. I keep my political thinking to myself as a CSPAN junkie who started following political musings while growing up in Jamaica watching the Jamaica Labor Party and the People’s National Party, or the PNM and NAR when I lived briefly in the Twin Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
This time it is a little different. My euphoria at last night’s news of Senator Harris being selected as former Vice President’s Joe Biden running mate for the 2020 elections was not borne simply out of an affiliation with any one political party, or political thought. In the moment, I believe I was caught up in the historic nature of it. Was I most proud that Senator Harris has some Jamaican heritage? We who were born on that island have a deep affinity to anyone who is attached to the black, gold and green. Just that connection alone draws the “family” support. Was I elated that she is a graduate of the prestigious Howard University? The Mecca? The Captstone? The Black Harvard? That magical place has shaped my life since I stepped foot on that campus in the fall of 1989. We Howard Bison do not play around whenever one of our own is making moves. I could understand if that is why I was elated. Although impressive, that was not it either. As I processed the news of the day, I went to bed pleased to see another historic moment like we did in November 2008 when Barrack Obama won on election night. The last meme I saw before going to bed was “Howard’s Homecoming has been rescheduled to November 3, 2020.” A little chuckle at how real this moment is for so many.
Here I am, up at my usual 3AM when something is on my mind and I simply cannot sleep. After spending some time in prayer, it slowly started coming to me the reason for my euphoria or joy last night. It came to me as plain as day. I am elated because what we are witnessing right now is the next stage of a shift. A major shift, not only in politics, but a movement that started many years ago, and long before Senator Harris. A shift that started with Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, down the line to Shirley Chisolm, also taking into consideration all the women who fought long and hard for the right to vote and equality. Some of whom are still fighting today in our Congress, state houses and Mayors offices.
As a husband and a father to a daughter, I have always been concerned about how these two ladies in my life engage the world. It is quite easy for them to be ignored, talked over, and in some instances have to adopt an aura of strength that is often times exhausting just thinking about it. They are both extremely smart and confident, but will they ever get a chance to showcase what they can truly do? They have their opinions as well. At first glance, some will relegate them to a place behind someone else who is less talented, less engaged in meaningful discourse, but is neither female or has their skin kissed by the sun. My elation seems to be loosely tied to seeing that slowly being chipped away. This nomination made a psychological breakaway for some young girls and women of color yesterday. August 11, 2020 will be a day that is remembered for some time.
Subconsciously I believe there are four reasons for my joy with the selection of Senator Kamala Harris as the Vice President Joe Biden’s running mate:
First, my euphoria is not predicated upon any one political party winning (although something must give with what we are experiencing right now). That is a civic duty we must carry out. Vote!!!! That is a given. My joy is rooted in the fact that finally women are getting the opportunity to showcase what they can do. Women of color more specifically. They have been the ones to bail us out as a nation on so many occasions. In elections. In our houses of worship. They take care of our families. They ensure that the legacies that we want to leave are intact. They led us to freedom, even though some today still do not know that they are free. That is for another blog post. They are strong. They are caring. They are magnificent. They are beautiful. They are resilient. They are our future. Although Senator Harris will go through a very severe public vetting process, The Mecca has prepared her well. She will be fine. However, a much larger impact with being selected as the Vice President running mate of a major political party is to inspire so many young girls of color to see the possibilities that young men of color saw in Barrack Obama. Board rooms and CEO positions are going to look different, and I am here for it. I worked for Dr. Dorothy Cowser Yancy at Johnson C. Smith University, and as more ladies of color step forward to take up the mantle of leadership in the corporate world, higher education or any other sphere, change is inevitable. They are change agents. This selection is simply another step in that direction.
This truism is real for us all because as I interviewed guests on my podcast who are extraordinarily successful in their fields, there is one common theme among all of them who are above sixty years old. If it were not for the firm foundation of family telling them that they could achieve anything they put their minds to, who knows the path that their lives would have taken? In their youthful days they could not see a person of color being president or hold any major position of authority. President Obama did that for our young men of color. Senator Harris will do the same for our girls of color with this announcement. This seminal moment has more weight to it than we can see or appreciate right now.
At a time when some in our nation are trying their best to return to a time that many would like to forget, it is refreshing to see the courage and grit being displayed to halt that return in various and sundry ways. We must take the small wins and turn them into a series of wins. Victories that push back against a narrative that suggests we are not all equal. A narrative that suggests some folks are more equal than others is antithetical to our moral ideals in my estimation; be it socially, economically, or spiritually. Kamala Harris’ selection says to the world, we are here, and we are not going back to that time. Better yet we are not going anywhere. We are not interested in stewing in the quagmire of indifference, hate and inequality. We are better than that.
The second reason for my joy this morning is that my first ever book chronicles my time at Howard University. It highlights what that institution has done for me, especially as an immigrant heading to Washington DC for the first time. That institution is a special place. It shapes and molds leaders, social entrepreneurs, and people who can change the world. Senator Harris has experienced the pull and push of the HBCU experience. Her nomination will also open the eyes not only to Howard, but all HBCUs across this nation. I currently serve at Morehouse College, and I keep telling people to watch this space. Prior to coming to Morehouse, I spent seven years at two predominantly white institutions. There is a difference in the experiences for students of color. A decade before that, I served another HBCU, and before that served at the United Negro College Fund. Trust me when I say there is a difference. HBCUs are in my very DNA and I can unequivocally state the nation’s HBCUs are special places to nurture the next generation of leaders.
The nation needs our HBCUs more than ever in these times. Vice President Biden’s choice of Senator Harris in one move has brought the nation’s HBCUs back to the national psyche. These incubators of black excellence will again have an opportunity to be recognized for what they mean to the nation. People will come to see that “HBCUs represent less than 3% of colleges and universities, enroll 12% of all African American students, produce 23% of all African American graduates, confer 40% of all STEM degrees and 60% of all engineering degrees are earned by African American students.” (The Changing Face of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Black Enterprise). “HBCUs educate 50% of African American teachers and 40% of African American health professionals. 70% of African American dentists and physicians earned degrees at HBCUs.” The list goes on and on. The impact of Howard is felt back in Jamaica where many dentists and doctors studied there. HBCUs have an international presence not many know about. Their story just received a much bigger platform with Senator Harris’ selection.
The third reason for my joy this morning is that now the world will know about the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Not for its competition among other sororities, but for its sisterhood. For the bond among strong black women in the Greek life, Corporate America, and life in general. The support that they have for each other, which is a microcosm of the kind of familial approach that nurtures and support its members. A model in some ways for young girls of color to see and emulate. That same nurturing and support that carried this nation forward, even when our mothers were caring for the children of those who oppressed them. Once again, the strength of the black woman will be on full display. You cannot make this stuff up. I am just silly to believe that this is all a part of a larger plan to bring this nation and the world back together, and I believe it is women of color all around the world who are going to make the difference. Look at the Mayors in some of our major cities. Look at the Prime Minister in Barbados. They are examples of the tsunami that is on the way in terms of leadership changes. I am not a member of any Greek organization and I can see this angle of inspiration very clearly.
The fourth and final reason for my joy this morning is as an immigrant to this country myself, the selection of Senator Harris highlights once again that those families who chose to come to these United States and make a living for themselves are contributors to the economy, culture and traditions that helped to shape it. Immigrants come here and excel in every field they find themselves. You name the field or sphere of influence you see their contributions. Whether it is NASA Rocket Scientist Camille Wardrop-Alleyne, Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick, or even as far back as the contributions of Marcus Garvey or Stokely Carmichael, the voice of immigrants, and especially immigrants of color have made tremendous contributions to shaping our present and our future. As their children navigate the new normal of the twenty first century, there is much to be hopeful for. The melting pot that is the United States will continue to be rewarded for its courage to move beyond what has been and embrace what is yet to come. If we all remember that it is difficult to think big when small has us, and shake off the smallness, we will see a wellspring of possibilities for our world.
So to answer my friend of many years. Yes, I am a waggonist today. Not a waggonist that is pigeonholed into any one political outcome. I am a waggonist because I see change on the horizon. I firmly hold true to the bandwagon effect. You know that bandwagon that gets pushed down a hill, and people sit on the sidelines waiting to see what happens before they get in. They see the wagon leaving, but they do not want to get in because they are fearful of what people might think if they do get in. Well, I have jumped in because I can clearly see where this wagon is going, and in my mind, it is a good place. The wagon is not led by one person per se, but the collective will to arrive at a new destination powers and guides this wagon.
This wagon is going to pick up speed as the grade of the hill is steep, and whatever changes will result from it moving will come with a great sense of alacrity and purpose. I would rather ride in the wagon that be run over by it.
I normally shy away from saying I am a waggonist because of the negative connotations from the ribbing I can get from sporting fans (I am a Tottenham Hotspurs fan which says it all). This time I am cool with it. I am cool with it because I can see my daughter through a different lens. I can see my wife and all her hard work through another lens. I can see the efforts of all the mothers out there through a different lens. I can see the good that can come from this selection of Senator Harris, and it is beautiful.
Peace and blessings.