From Chicago: Election Night Elation

Earlier this year, Jane Davis went to Chicago to visit Rebecca and La Coya who run a literature based outreach programme called Literature for All of Us. There are many similarities with this project and Get Into Reading: Literature for All of Us works with teen mothers and other young people in underserved neighbourhoods, bringing the rewards of reading and writing to them and in doing so, building communities of readers, writers and critical thinkers.

After Obama’s victory last week, Jane got in touch with the ladies at Literature for All of Us to send her congratulations. Below is a taste, direct from the ladies in Chicago, as to what it was like to be there:

05 November 2008

Last night was amazing. Historical. Monumental. Electrified. Beautiful. Although I didn’t have a ticket to get into the area of Grant Park where Barack Obama was speaking, some friends and I still went down there. As did hundreds of thousands of others. And here is where I begin to lose words. Who can say how a mass of humanity all convened for one purpose, for one dream, for one goal really feels. You might say it was politics at its best. You might say it was democracy in action. You might say it was the moment optimism becomes reality. It felt like all of that. And it felt like more. And it felt like something that can never be communicated.

All I know is I stood in a crowd of people and I let myself believe. I was a staunch skeptic until about 9 p.m. when I finally gave in to the tiniest sliver of me that just WANTED to believe that this would happen. That Barack Obama would be our next President. So I bought a shirt that said so. And I wore it. And my heart believed it.

I watched with the masses as at almost exactly 10 p.m. CNN projected Barack Obama as the next President of the United States of America. I jumped up and down. I hugged my friends. I shouted. And shouted some more. And shouted some more. I danced. I laughed. I repeated, “Oh my god. Oh my god,” about 37 times in a row. I made eye contact and traded ecstatic laughs with jubilant strangers. I watched as McCain gave a concession speech and I admitted I had to give him props – I actually thought it was pretty gracious and respectful; I mean, at least the dude did what he could to quell the White Supremacist anger. I thanked the heavens above that it was the last time I had to listen to that man call me his fucking friend. I waited and waited for President-Elect Obama.

And then the instrumental music began. The video ran. The air was static with energy. The crowd — of hundreds of thousands — was quiet. And then The Man himself came on stage. He spoke. He spoke beautifully, respectfully, inspirationally. He was so damn Presidential. He was poised, confident and honest. He thanked those who were instrumental in his success – those who he knew by name, by name, those he didn’t, by spirit. He spoke of work ahead. He spoke of humility and repairing the trust that has been lost over the last 8 years. He spoke of collective action – of engaged citizenry. He spoke the words over and over which have become the mantra of not only his campaign but every person watching and rejoicing with him that night: “Yes, we can.” And we all repeated it with him. And we all believed him. And then there was joy. There was pride. There was unrelenting hope.

As President-Elect Obama closed out his speech and was joined by Vice President-Elect Biden and their families, the crowds began to stream away. My friends and I moved closer to the JumboTron. And I broke into sobs. I cried and cried and cried. I was overwhelmed with emotion. This was a moment forever in the making. And this man — for whom this moment was always intended — was walking his path with such poise and purpose and humility.

More happened that night. I eventually went to sleep. And woke up today. Exhausted and with only one thought in my head: “They let him have it. They really let him have it. I cannot BELIEVE they let him have it.” And throughout the day I have stopped and broken out in new bouts of tears which will not be denied by my eyes. I didn’t know I would feel this way. I am overwhelmed. This man, this man who looks like my father and my brother and my nephew has some respect and dignity and power in this country. We gave it to him. And they let him have it. They really let him have it. I am astounded. And amazed. And emotional. I am proud. And humbled. And feeling blessed. And feeling grateful. And feeling everything all at once.

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