My cell phone rang at about 3:30 a.m. on Jan. 27. I stuck my hand out from under the mosquito netting over my bed in a small hotel in a restored Swahili merchant’s house in Stone Town, the old section of Zanzibar. It was my wife, Mable, telling me that South Carolina had just been declared for Obama.
I had cast my vote for Obama before I left for Durban, South Africa to attend a meeting of ocean scientists from ten Indian Ocean African countries to launch a major marine environmental project. I then moved on to Zanzibar, Tanzania to meet with colleagues at the Institute of Marine Sciences of the University of Dar es Salaam and to Mombasa, Kenya for a similar visit with the Kenya Institute of Marine and Fisheries Research.
Everywhere I went, there was excitement about Obama. The TV and print media highlighted his efforts.
In one particular story describing his last visit to his grandmother in her village, the writer was quick to point out that Obama had come before he was a dignitary, and that he used public transportation! The importance of his links to the challenges faced by ordinary people was appreciated. The article emphasized that he regularly sends e-mails to his grandmother through family members.
The excitement was evident not only in my scientific colleagues and laboratory support staff but also with those working in hotels, airports, markets, as drivers etc. There not only was a sense of pride and inspiration, but also of hope that U.S. policy on Africa might have a new dimension beyond the war on terror, disaster relief (done in a way that although saving lives, hinders development of self sufficiency) and oil and other critical resources. The original scepticism of colleagues that white America would never vote for a black person has been swept away. As I told persons then, and repeat today, to overseas colleagues, a vote for Obama in no way means racism has ended, but his successful candidacy would have a significant impact on the efforts to address that knotty issue.
April 22 is the critical Pennsylvania primary. Make sure your friends and relatives who live there vote.
To do more, check out the web site www. barackobama.com. You can get lists of names to call. You can donate online; even $5 amounts are valued. Obama has made a major effort to garner small donations from many people. Black elected officials often rely on a small number of large donors. That dependency caused one well-known black politician to tell me that while he does not always vote the way his non-black donors would like, he does respond to their calls and listens to their positions!
Obama uses the long-time NAACP rallying cry, “Fired up and ready to go.” Whether you support Obama or another, get involved in the process to ensure candidates address our needs. Get “Fired up and ready to go,” believe that, “Yes we can,” and “Get Hope.”