Tuesday, June 17, 2008
OBAMA’S FATHER’S DAY ADDRESS
By Jackie Wright, June 16, 2008
The statistics speak for themselves and Obama’s comments on Black fathers echoed what the statistics are saying. Yes, Black fathers must step up more than they have, but we must not lose sight of the challenges and barriers they face.
If reported in a fair and balanced way, the problem with Obama’s speech was context. The other side of the coin was not presented. Due to the limited picture that the media give of Black people, Obama’s comments adds to the distorted image of Black families. We see the same images of Black people over and over again in the media without the balance, and therefore the wider society has a perverted view of Black families and worst than that Black families have a perverted view of themselves.
We are as people who have looked in the mirror and walked away and have forgotten what we look like. Black people too often relive the negative images that are fed over and over again by media. There is a beauty and strength in Black people that the spirit of the world has fought to keep from coming forth as in Ephesians 6; “we wrestle not against flesh and blood.”
One thing I know about war is that you always take out the most threatening weapons, the ammunition dump and you break down communication, food and all supply lines. A smart enemy always throws in the “Tokyo Rose”-type psychological warfare strategy. Because Black men in America have an eternal and spiritual gift beyond what we can see with the natural eye, they have been marked to be taken out by the false economy and mental panacea and escape of drugs, racism, self-doubt, a lack of vision, pessimism and all the forces that line up to keep their resilient light from shining forth. When Black men in America stand up and stop taking the small shots that land them in jail, confused in relationships, devalued and distrusting, the world will change for the better. It’s like being on the playground. Anytime anyone or anything keeps taunting you to keep you from seeing the value you bring, you have to realize the very thing you are being taunted about has great value. Why bother with the assault and attack, if there is no value there? The trick is to get you to think you have no value. You defeat yourself.
It’s a curious occurrence that I spent “Father’s Day” listening to Oprah Winfrey, when she first mentioned her father, I cringed. As a Black woman who adored her father, who was separated from him at an early age because of a White father’s decision, John F. Kennedy, and a White father’s inexperience (the pilot responsible for the loss of aircraft in Vietnam that resulted in two deaths including my father), my gut feared that here’s a powerful Black person speaking to thousands of Whites who is going to criticize her father. Given Winfrey’s past, I would not have been surprised. But I was relieved and pleasantly surprised that Ms. Winfrey’s references to her father was of a man who gave her the best advice he knew at the time. She wove her father into her speech on “Father’s Day” in an honorable way and inspired us all with her wisdom and grace.
An additional curiosity and irony is, I spent “Father’s Day” with a colleague who was also covering the event with his son. The father and son team videotaped the event and made reference to both “Obama and Oprah” as they called for Ms. Winfrey to be Obama’s Vice President with the “Double O” sign after her speech. See the link: http://vision-writeonthewall.blogspot.com/. It’s also curious that the day before the speech young Alex, born to a French woman and a Black man, on a whim cut his curly Afro resulting in a striking resemblance to the presidential nominee.
Obama, I feel your personal pain and what you said was so true; but in light of the sufferings of Black people and the distortion in the media, I believe they were ill-timed and on the wrong high horse.
See UCLA law professor Dr. Jerry Kang’s “Trojan Horses of Race:” http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=627381. Broadcast media does not serve in the public interest anymore and the distorted images are holding back a lot of good people. Of further interest may be Dr. Kang’s Special to the National Law Journal (March 31, 2008) “On Obama and Ozawa:” http://readingspark.blogspot.com/2008/04/dr-jerry-kang-ucla-law-aas-on-obama-and.html.
For the record, it’s also curious that I would finally pick this “Father’s Day” to say not all Black fathers are failing. Before I saw the article from the New York Times, I had put up a website to begin to pay tribute to my father. It’s been much too long. I hope it will encourage others to do the same and that the site will inspire Dads, no matter their race. It’s just one human story of a man who loved and worked for his family amid racism and other challenges…just the challenge of being human and learning your way in life. Sp5 Wyley Wright told his nine-year old daughter in 1963 he was going to fight in Viet Nam “to help set the people of Viet Nam free.” Chosen as honor guard for Secretary of War Robert McNamara’s viewing of the troops, he died on that last added mission. Almost forty years later via the Internet, my fears were confirmed. My father did not have to die that that day, two weeks before he was to return home: http://wrightthevisiononthewall.blogspot.com/.
And as Whites, other ethnic groups and people of color who are gaining their way in this country as a result of the sacrifices Blacks made during the civil rights struggles and who now treat Blacks with as much disrespect and disregards as Jim Crow Whites, consider the absentee White fathers who have sold this country out for a buck: Cheney, Bush, the White fathers of Enron, Halliburton, which has stripped this country and is now relocating to Dubai and hundreds of corporations that have robbed this country not only of money but dignity. Malachi 4 says,…”the hearts of the fathers must be turned to the children and the children to the father least there be a curse on the land.” There is a curse when fathers do not take care of their children.
Our children can no longer sing “My Country, Tis of Thee…sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing…land where our fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride.” They can’t sing “God Bless America!” They don’t know the words. Dads, Black and White are not around enough to teach them.
All fathers In America need to step up!
Monday, April 7th, Jackie Wright wrote to family and friends about meeting Barack Obama. As a result of a question about Iraq and reference to a mother whose son is fighting in Iraq, Obama met with the woman and spoke to the small group gathered outside the Kentfield mansion in Marin County. The Marin IJ wrote a story about the meeting, but there was no mention of Wright, who was one of 7 Blacks at the reception of over 300 people. At the time Wright served as messenger, she had no idea the woman's name was Kennedy, nor that she was a recently naturalized Irish-American citizen who had become so to vote for Obama.
Dear Family and Friends,
I just want to say “Look What the Lord Has Done!” When I woke up yesterday morning, Sunday, I had no idea that before the day was over I would meet the next President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. I was invited to be a guest at a $2,300 per person reception in Kentfield, in Marin County, the richest county in California, possibly the nation.
As I walked toward the gorgeous home with, Dr. Ramona Tascoe, Darryl and Gavin, a woman who was standing with a crowd across the street walked up to us and said “We love Barack. My son is in Iraq would you ask Barack to say hello to us when he leaves.” I nodded yes, and said ok, ok. As I walked in the driveway I wondered how in the world was I going to keep my word and why had I said yes? I had had no intention of approaching Obama. I just wanted to see him.
The Lord gave me the presence of mind to ask a questions as Obama was getting near the end of his question and answer period. I began raising my hand going from the left to the right as I tired, but never putting my hand down. So he said “this is the last question” and began looking to see whom he’d call on and people in the crowd began pointing to me because I had had my hand up so long (as the Bible says the hand of the diligent shall rule!). So he pointed to me.
“My name is Jackie Wright, no relation to Dr. Jeremiah Wright, except by the Spirit. There is a mother out front whose son is in Iraq. She says she loves you and would you stop by and say hello when you leave. Your comments on Iraq…And…” He interrupted me and asked “how many questions are you going to squeeze in?” “As many as I can,” I responded…”Would you join Oprah Winfrey June 15th at Stanford University as She is being honored?” (More details on the project headed by Darryl Obama Provost to come).
He commented on Iraq; but for me the highlight was his action. I found out about half an hour after he had left that he indeed stopped and spoke to the people standing outside and signed the cap of Mrs. Noreen Kennedy’s son. When God gave me the courage to speak up for her I had no idea that her name was Kennedy, that her son a 27 year old Captain was on his second tour of 15 months and that he was in the 101st Airborne. Nor did I know she was an immigrant from Ireland who had become a citizen to vote for Barack Obama.
Those close to me know the sensitivity I have around soldiers and their families with my father having served in the 114th Aviation Company in Viet Nam, dying while on his last mission as honor guard for then Secretary of War, Robert S. McNamara, two weeks from coming home. I felt compelled to get the message to Obama.
In the email below you will find Mrs. Kennedy’s remarks to me and the photos of Barack Obama taking a “Jesus moment” “caring for the least of these my brothers.” No one had to throw a rock at his car to stop him (per that popular email). He took the time to care.
You may get another email with a photo of Mrs. Kennedy and me when I get mine developed which may include the picture of me being chided by Barack for trying to pose with him as I shook his hand after he had said he didn’t have time to pose. Since I couldn’t get all my questions in, I at least wanted a posed photo and not just a candid.
There are a lot of historical things going on. Check out www.sfexodus.com for instance. Wow, its been an inspired weekend for me beginning with the prayer luncheon at the Miracles of Faith Church with Reverend Greg Brown as pastor, commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; speaking on Saturday to Dr. Terecita Dean’s students, “Kids on the Move America” about Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" and Dr. King's "I have Been to the Mountain Top" speeches in the newly renovated Victorian in Alameda that once housed the Red Cross where I worked; and Sunday, meeting Barack Obama as a result of being the messenger for Mrs. Kennedy! As the Bible says “God is not a respecter of persons. What He does for one He’ll do for others.” I hope this encourages you in everyway. Everyday God gives us gifts that we don’t plan for or deserve. Today is a gift! Make the most of it. Expect the unexpected!
> Date: Sun, 6 Apr 2008 19:13:18 -0700
> From: email@example.com
> Subject: Fwd: You & Obama
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Hi Jackie, I'm the lady that you asked Barack to come talk to. Someone took pictures which just added to what was already an amazing day. I can't thank you enough, not knowing who I was, for taking the time to ask your question. My son always says "the American people have forgotten them" but I'll have a story to tell him that's not true. Lovely to have met your happy smiley face. Sincerely, Noreen Kennedy
> Note: forwarded message attached.
> Noreen Kennedy
photos by Helie Robertson
RE: You & Obama
From: Noreen Kennedy (email@example.com)
Sent: Mon 4/07/08 1:11 PM
To: jackie wright (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thank you for sharing such an intimate story of your life. It's weird how we were meant to meet each other? My son Ronan's first love is Helicopter Flying. The 101ST is not regular planes... His degree from the University of Washington is in Structural Engineering. He would've loved to have flown or do Structural Engineering but through a "screw-up" in the Army did not get his wish? Long story there.... I firmly believe (want to believe) that life has a way of working out Jackie. I tell Ronan that all the time. Who raised you then, your grandmother? Having read the letter you wrote you are an amazing writer. The fact that you hold no bitterness says amazing things about you. I, personally, don't think I could be so forgiving... I can't imagine how your mother coped. He just called, my so Ronan, and I reiterated all that went on. He was so touched about all that happened knowing how much it meant to me. I since know that KIA is Killed in Action... I too, did not have parents. I was raised in an orphanage in Dublin Ireland from the age of 4 through 17yrs. Another story for another time. Take care ... Noreen... If it's alright with you, you are more than welcome to call me Noreen. I hear people from the south are very mannerly.
jackie wright <email@example.com> wrote:
Oh my goodness....oh my goodness, Mrs. Kennedy.... I have to share this email with some of the men who served in my father's company....but at different times than his tour....From these men, I found out 44 years later than one of the main camps in Viet Nam Vihn Long was named after my father and a captain.... I did not know this until recently.... Your son referenced camps being named after fallen soldiers and it reminded me of my father. Not that you want to know all of this...but I am going to send you a copy of the newsletter I recently wrote for my father's 114th Aviation Company newsletter.
> Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2008 11:37:38 -0700
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Fwd: Re: You & Obam
> To: email@example.com
> Jackie, this is the reply from Ronan my son who's in Iraq. As you can see he's as excited as I am. Not sure what a KIA bracelet is, it obviously meant something to Ronan. Sinead (Shin-aid) that he mentions is his sister, and Maya is his dog who we're looking after while he's in Iraq. What an amazing story as regards your father. Why I would pick YOU of all the people who were going in there is amazing. Your father would've been so proud of you for what you did. I wanted to say the same thing to Obama as regards HIS mother. I know she died of cancer a couple of years ago. Noreen Kennedy
> Note: forwarded message attached.
> Noreen Kennedy
--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2008 21:25:10 +0300
Subject: Re: You & Obam
Well, wow!!! That looks pretty amazing, mom! How incredible. I know you were looking forward to the visit, too, so this makes it all the more special. Just amazing...!!
I'm glad someone was there to take pictures for you. Was Maya dog with you? I see Obama wears a KIA braclett, which is a nice gesture of him. Sinead sent me the IJ article, too... sounds pretty incredible.
I'm back on the big base for the night. I came back here to buy a bunch of stuff we need for the new base, "COP Meade." We also started three other new bases in the area and named them after some fallen Soldiers from the battalion last year.
So far it's pretty calm out in the new area. We're taking things slow and trying to build some sort of relationship with the people so they'll start working towards bettering themselves and we can stay alive and come home. So far it's all working out okay.
Well... I think I'll try calling you in a bit since I have the time. Great to see the pictures and hear the story.
MARIN INDEPENDENT JOURNAL STORY
Posted by Justice at 7:53 AM