I stare out at the rows of never ending buildings and homes from my living room window, taking in Brooklyn. Scents of patchouli and cedarwood faintly twirl under my nostrils as I allow in a moment of reverie from my recliner.
I’m brought back to being in a moderately filled nightclub with my father, our cousin and his wife in Haiti’s capitol. Kompa music is buzzing from every direction and I’m in a state of awe. Women are twirling on the dancefloor, the bar is congested with men waving Haitian gourde and someone is wearing too much cologne; I turn and stare at my cousin, he stares back and smiles. The four of us sit at a small table adjacent to the DJ as my dad waves over to the bartender and signals a man towards us. We delight in each others company sipping on water and Barbancourt as my gaze centers on a couple moving immaculately in unison with the percussion. My dad displays a sly grin on his face then playfully asks me to dance with his hand out. “Ok old man you better keep up, I’ve got kitty heels on tonight”. Our laughter echoes over the music as our hands merge in a procession towards the middle of the dance floor. Now I’ve danced with my father plenty of times but this was the last time and the brain has a tremendous way of remembering first and lasts’ with monumental emotions encompassed within absolute surety of how things unfolded. My phone rings and I’m brought back into the reality of the moment in my recliner.
To consider that exact memory at another time in another place while in another mood would produce a different outcome perhaps. Will the suffocating scent from my cousin’s cologne be as present? Will I recall the pride felt when the owner came over to shake my dad’s hand, with cold bottles of water for the table? Did I really have on kitty heels that night or am I mixing it up with the time we danced at my college teammates wedding in Florida? The multiplicity of a story, the narrative a person speaks and believes while simultaneously feeling various emotions leads me to contemplate my version of truth. “I need to finish reading this Obama book already” I stammer while sitting up to answer my ringing phone.
A week later that’s exactly what I did, finished Dreams from My Father via audiobook because I was tickled at the idea of the 44th President of the United States reading to me. I enjoyed him reading to me and I enjoyed listening to his story told with such mature emotional intelligence; that’s the defining aspect of the book for me, the former Commander-in-Chief’s superb emotional intelligence. I wish I could say more but it would be disingenuous.
Published in 1995 before any campaigning towards a presidency was spoken into existence, there’s an aspect of candor that I imagine would be absent had he known he’d one day be the leader of the U S of A. That’s Shari in 1995’s opinion. During my two year residency in England, I doubt I will ever forget this, I was exposed to a theory that all US Presidents with the exception of Martin Van Buren are related to John, King of England aka King John Platagenet, which gives me a “red or blue pill” Matrix style option while reading Mr. Obama’s memoir present day. Did he write this knowing that he would in fact become President one day? I appreciate that I was visually able to racially identify with a President during my existence. It’s only in the past 10 years that I can say the same about a world leader as it pertains to sexual orientation (s/o to Serbia). How progressive of a world are we living in?
The impact on my psyche, self esteem and aspects of how I connect to resilience are all literally “uplifted” because Mr. Barack Obama ran for presidency and won twice without getting assassinated or impeached while in office. And for that to be shortly followed by the Queen of England’s grandson, Prince Harry, marrying a black woman and producing a black son (I’m going with the 1 drop rule here). This aspect of “color” being on display in the royal family and through their descendants claiming their birthright (insert Obama’s presidency here if I leaned into the aforementioned theory) leaves me in wonderment about politics and tradition in the world. I digress out of recognition that I may sound like a conspiracy theorist or a kook. All this to very directly state, Dreams from My Father was a solid read. I’m a fan of our former President. The audacity for Barack to run for President shall make waves for centuries to come. The systems strategically put into place to disenfranchise and dis-empower individuals, groups and communities based on race is slowly but surely crumbling. Up until 1967 (Loving vs. Virginia) it was not legal in all 52 states for a person of color to marry a white individual, and this year marks 400 years since the first black slave stepped foot on this soil that all of us in America call home. It truly is shocking how slowly we are progressing as a society concerning our tolerance of otherness and the ways in which that otherness is then reflected institutionally in the systems that govern what we learn, how we teach, what we listen to, how our news is angled, etc etc etc.
Headed out now to see if Michelle Obama will read her memoir to me :-) Two thumbs up to our former President. I’ll continue to have his works of literature on my bookshelf.