3.04.2007

Obama's Selma Blessing

I expect that news reports of today’s Obama and Clinton speeches in Selma, in honor of the 42nd anniversary of the Bloody Sunday, will focus on the political contest--and suggest some sort of parity between the Obama and Clinton.

However, the real story, which will be missed by the MSM, is much more significant.

First, Senator Barack Obama was invited last November to give today’s keynote address at the Brown Chapel AME Church—the church from which Dr. Martin Luther King launched the historic Selma march. John Lewis, the famous civil rights leader and now Atlanta congressman, was by Dr. King's side then--and today, he stood next to Senator Obama. And the Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder with Martin Luther King of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, was at Obama's side during the crossing of the Edmond Pettus Bridge during the re-enactment of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery.

In contrast, Senator Clinton’s campaign only recently ginned up an invitation to speak in Selma, too—albeit at another church.

Second, Obama’s message was that the Moses generation (the generation of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Joseph Lowery, et al) sacrificed and laid the groundwork for progress—a progress that rooted Obama's own rise, including his audacious run for presidency.

"If it hasn't been for Selma, I wouldn't be here. This is the site of my conception. I am the fruits of your labor. I am the offspring of the ovement. When people ask me if I've been to Selma before, I tell them I'm coming home."
Obama spoke about the need for the Joshua generation (today's generation of African-Americans) do their part to finish the unfinished business of the movement.

Additionally, he challenged the Joshua generation--in only a way that a brother in good standing could--to do a better job as parents--especially fathers--and citizens.

In Clinton’s speech, she too declared that progress has been made, but that much work remains. Strangely, she too credited the civil rights movement with helping her, her husband, and even Jimmy Carter, reach high office. In a weak attempt at association, she also mentioned that she once heard Martin Luther King--the phenomenon--speak in Chicago.

Third, Obama appeared to be in his element; his demeanor, his language and his message resonated with the elder clergy present and with the congregation.

It appeared to me that what I was witnessing was not just a presidential candidate giving a speech, but a young leader being annointed by elders to lead the people.

In contrast, Clinton is operating under the old paradigm in which white politicians visit black churches, adopt a faux black accent—which she shockingly did, and yell—which she did--claims of brotherhood.

A bit of pandering and some "street money" (payoffs to black church leaders in exchange for endorsements) are typical for white politicians seeking African American votes--and which Bill Clinton is the master of and Hillary has adopted. For example, Hillary recently 'won' the endorsement of a powerful black minister in South Carolina after she agreed to pay him $200,000 as a "consultant".

What's so cool is that today in Selma, Alabama, a place once filled with racial hatred and led by racist Democrats (racist George Wallace was governor), is now a place to which the leading Democratic party candidates--one African American and the other a woman--visit and honor the valient efforts of those that were oppressed.

However, only one of the visitors today taps into, and is propelled by, the historic movement for human dignity: Barack Obama. While Clinton’s speech left me indifferent, Obama’s brought tears of hope.

And I wasn't the only one that was so moved. The lone call taken by CSPAN, an African American woman, was choked up, too. Barely containing her emotions, she spoke about how Obama’s words brought a powerful sense of pride that a black man finally has a legitimate shot at the presidency.

Most people will never see what really transpired today, so I suppose that the Clinton gambit to stem Obama’s momentum by interjecting themselves (this involves Bill, too) probably worked.

But the story that I saw is that The Dream lives—and that the good folks at Selma’s Brown Chapel AME Church have given their blessing to one Barack H. Obama.