My President is Black. Still.
Last year one of my goals was to visit DC for the first time. The plan was to spend a week there for my birthday so I’d see it before Obama left. But then I splurged on tickets to Hamilton and decided visiting New York for the first time was special enough for one you. I don’t regret going to New York; but I sure as hell regret not going to DC.
I’m scheduled to be there next month for AWP17 and I’m dreading it. In fact, since November I’ve been actively looking for ways not to go. (Can I Skype myself in? Get a doctor’s note to excuse me?) My friends are assuring me that I’ll love DC: the food is great, the people are great, and no one person can shift the entire city so drastically so soon. I want them to be right. I hope they’re right.
But a room, a city, has a vibe when you enter it. You can feel dynamic in the air, the crackle of the emotions. And I cannot imagine that it won’t be different. It certainly will be for me. Of course, I would not have met President Obama if I went to DC earlier but it would have informed my mood. I would know that he and (the glorious, incomparable) Michelle Obama were in that house that slaves built and I would stand tall. I would walk through the capital of a country that I left because of fucked up immigration policies, housing policies, and health insurance policies and know that the administration was at least trying to make the United States better for people like me. I’d visit those grand monuments and feel like there was a place for me in that history.
And now it feels tainted. I feel like I’m arriving to the parade an hour late, and there’s nothing left but crushed balloons, discarded junk food, and the faint smell of piss.
These eight years were a magical moment in history and I feel like I missed it. I know I missed it because I’ve seen the photos and the videos and the gifs and there will never be another First Family like this.
So many people in my life are anxious about what’s to come. Many are bracing for the worse and arming themselves for a fight. I will join them, in the small ways I can, but already I am weary. I was once hopeful that I’d be able to kick back one day and say “we won!” but this whole shitshow of an election cycle has been a horrifying reality check that it won’t happen in my lifetime.
The first book I read this year was Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower. It was not reassuring at all but it did give me some sense of how to move forward. Speaking to her friend, the protagonist Lauren Olamina talks about her emergency plans:
“Every time I go outside, I try to imagine what it might be like to live out there without walls, and I realize I don’t know anything….
“I mean to learn everything I can while I can. If I find myself outside, maybe what I’ve learned will help me live long enough to learn more.”
That’s what I’ll be doing: reading, learning, sharing the knowledge. I want to be as intentional as possible so I set goals for myself on November 15, 2016:
- Protect and empower vulnerable people, especially Black women.
- Challenge people who express dangerous ideas.
- Work towards justice within my industry (publishing) and my city (Toronto) by holding leaders accountable, and proposing/executing better policies.
I find myself sinking into despair and I try not let it overwhelm me. I’ve come out of dark times before and I’ll face dark times again: I know I—we—can get through this. Still. I’m sad.
“Nothing is going to save us. If we don’t save ourselves, we’re dead.”