Notes on an election morning cont’d-Making it Happen in California

By Tammy Johnson Nov 04, 2008

It’s embarrassing, but I’ve been fighting back tears all day. But eventually, I got my act together and joined ARC media masters, Channing and Alfredo, at an east Oakland middle school to film a few voters as they exited the poll. It was the most diverse polling station that I’ve ever seen. A fourtysomething Black postal worker spoke about the foreclosure rates in his community. Twenty and thirty year-old Latino men worried about unemployment rates and California ballot measures that targeted young people and the LGBT community. A South Asian gentleman echoed nearly everyone’s desire for the war in Iraq to end. Then there was the fifty something earnest brother who, after 29 years on parole, was voting for the first time. This election meant a great deal to him. For the first time he felt that he had a stake in this democracy. But the mother pushing her baby boy in the stroller really sealed the deal for me. “I’ve lived in this community for nearly 30 years,” she told me. “Things are changing. That’s why this election is important. We have to show them that we matter, our community matters. We are smart, capable and we can make things happen.” I’m a hardcore cynic. I’m usually the first to de-romanticize historical happenings. But I can’t deny this moment. There was something in the voices of these people that I’ve never heard before. It was hope. In all of my years as an organizer, trainer and speaker, and in all the campaigns that I’ve work on —win or lose— I’ve seen nothing like this. It’s wonderful. And what makes this moment even sweeter is that when you really listen to what people have to say, their hope isn’t invested in the ascent of one man. “Look who’s out here!” the brother said, “It’s everybody. We are going to make this happen!” Hope on an election day. Who would have guessed it?