Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Wadsworth Dem's Reflection on Obama's Nomination

Wadsworth Democrat Joe Arpad sent us this reaction to the historic nomination of Senator Barack Obama. He gave us permission to share it with you. Please take the time to read it.

I just watched an historical moment that I never thought I would experience in my lifetime.

In 1960. I first became involved in the Civil Rights Movement when my friend, Rafer Johnson, who at the time was President of the Student Body at UCLA, was attacked by a new group, called the Black Muslims, because he was not acting as a Black Muslim but as an All-American athlete and an intellectual student at UCLA. Rafer was a Christian, and didn't need to change his name to become accepted by the community.

My experience with Rafer and the Black Muslims caused me to seek work in the Civil Rights movement. The reason I chose Duke as the place to seek my Ph.D. was that it was in the South and I could work on the voter registration in North Carolina.

At the time, Jessie Helms was the manager of WRAL TV in Durham, a dedicated Dixiecrat, who would announce the KKK meetings on the evening news so everyone could attend. Few people remember it now, but the only persons in the Republican Party in the South at the time were the blacks, because it was the Party of Lincoln. The Democrats controlled everything, and whoever won the Democratic primary was a shoo-in for the general election.

All this changed in 1968, when the faculty at Duke, UNC, and NC State formed the first ACLU chapter in the South, mobilized students to work for taking the control of the Democratic Party out of the hands of the segregationists and into the hands of union workers and black people. The 1968 result was the ouster of Jessie from the Democratic Party (he left on his own accord) and the transformation of the 5 counties in the piedmont of NC into non-segregationist Democratic districts.

In the fall of that year, we elected the first black Congressman since Reconstruction. I say all of this because I never thought I would see the day when a black would be nominated to be the President of the United States, and further, would actually have a chance of winning.

In 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Duke, two weeks before he was assassinated. That day, when he was assassintated, April 4, 1968, at 5:04 p.m. EST, was a turning point, a crushing heart-wrenching moment that ended the black struggle to become part of the middle class America. The moment has returned, thanks to Obama.

In this context, it was infuriating to change channels from CSPAN to Fox News and the other news networks to hear the commentators trashing the nomination that had just taken place. I still had tears in my eyes. These guys had only venom to spew.

Please join with me in rejoicing for this historic moment, for this historic opportunity, to transform years and years of blind prejudice and racism in the U.S. and elect Barack Obama as our next President. I never even dreamed this could happen in my lifetime. Forty years after all that work, it's now a possibility. Miracles do happen. And can happen.

Thanks for listening, Joe

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