Black History Month

I meant to post this in February, but, you know. Life.

There was a video released on the White House Facebook page of a 106 year old woman meeting the president. She was so happy, and to think of all she had seen and lived through – from 1910 until now – its moving.

As Super Tuesday has just passed us in the United States and we are gearing up to inaugurate a new president, I wanted to share memories of Obama’s first inauguration in ’08. The first time a black president was inaugurated. A day that will live in history will live well in my memory.

I was at work, and it was, I think, just after lunch. There’s a big screen TV at my center, and everyone – as in, everyone on the 2nd floor, client and staff alike, and the doctors from the medical clinic – all crowded in to watch. We darkened that side of the center and people were anywhere they could be to watch. People on couches, the floor, standing behind the couches in several rows. Some craning to see from the back hallway – all of us.

It was quieter in there than normal, which made sense because we all wanted to hear it. Many of our clients are black. Some of their parents were sharecroppers, and many of them remembered the civil rights movement. Many of them had been victim to the discriminatory housing practices so common in St. Louis, including living in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project during the late 60’s.

There was one client in particular – very delusional, but getting help. Some days he wanted to be called Earl (not his real name), and sometimes he wanted to be called Reverend Bobo (also not his real name.) He also changed other people’s names. He frequently called people Bubblegum, particularly when he was frustrated. “I put that there for a reason, Bubblegum.” He had trouble with my name for awhile, and so he just called me Gracie. Sometimes, when we would ask him questions, he would answer something we hadn’t asked: often to remind us that Darth Vader was his father.

As we were watching the ceremony and listening to the television commentator announce the different, including a performance by Yoyo Ma. We could hear the client’s voice, clear as a bell, “Yoyo Ma’s my cousin!” The staff collectively lost their minds choking back laughter.

When I think back to his inauguration, I remember the darkened room and “Yoyo Ma’s my cousin!”

 

 

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