Something is happening, and I think you should know:
US President George Bush and Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Monrovia today, Feb. 21, 2008. Bush pledges support for Liberia.
God moves in mysterious ways. History can redeem us or betray us, but history-making is real and alive today in the US and in the world. I always believe that a writer should see herself as being in the center of history, to write within the making of history, that a poet should always be aware of where she is standing, both in place, time, and in circumstances, where she is when history is being made. That other eye, that ability to place oneself in the midst of things as they are stirred up, shaken, or calmed is important if a writer is to become a great writer. A writer must be socially engaged with her world. This is where I come in. I have no strong arguments about why the US President should have or should not have visited Africa, and particularly, my original homeland. It is a great thing for all of us. I only pray and hope that Liberia will come out better off by Bush’s short stop in Monrovia.
And yet, here I am on my way to Penn State York, to the historical town of York, Pennsylvania where my poetry reading schedule isn’t any different from other poetry reading schedules that I have had these few weeks. But I must stop to pause here to remember because I am going to read for Black History Month, me an African, now becoming part of the history of these great African Americans who have shaped my life long before I came. I pause to wonder how all of the histories being made around me are significant to poetry reading, which of course, others will say is insignificant.
As I pause, I must admit that last night as with other nights of the US Primaries and Caucuses, I stopped my very hectic schedules of house work, paper grading, reading, writing, etc. to watch history happen around me as Barack Obama won his tenth consecutive primary. To be here and experience this new kind of history while at the same time the US President is visiting my original homeland of Liberia to speak to the first female President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and to visit the war ravaged remains of a country where everyone has lost almost everything, and to be here and be a poet with the power to write whatever I want from my unique perspective, to me is a blessing. God has been good to many of us not because of circumstances, but because we can take the circumstances around us and make them work for us. I believe this is where I come in. So despite all of the great things happening, I see myself as a significant part of everything because I am a human being with a mind.
I’m glad to be alive to see history, but I am glad to be alive to do what I know how to do in my own way. As a Liberian woman who was in college during the visit of the only other American sitting President, Jimmy Carter, visited Monrovia just for a few hours in 1978, I am again curious to see what this visit of another US President will bring for a country that was beaten down and hammered by war for fourteen years, what President Bush will bring to this new Liberia, coming out of misery, and how his visit will be more beneficial to our people than Jimmy Carter’s visit in 1978.
But in the midst of this history is another major one: Barack Obama. And all I have to say is that it brings tears to my eyes to see that there is a power larger than power that is moving, and I, a mother, a wife, a believer in the love and power of God, a teacher of college folks, a writer, and woman from Africa, a black and an immigrant who came to the great United States having lost all due to the ugliness of politics and greed can be here to see this history– I say, I can only pause and be thankful to God.
I have seen many US elections over the years, but this, the first black man who is able to bring America together, both whites and blacks, brings tears to my eyes. I always believed in America, the first time I met America on a Pan American Airliner 747 in 1981, young and newly married, on my way with my husband to Nigeria, there, on that airliner were Asians, Indians, whites, blacks, people of all shades, sitting side by side on a plane, about three hundred just out of New York City, traveling to various African destinations. I was dumbfounded to tears. I had never seen anything like this in my life in my own country before or then, in 1981, and so as a young poet, not much published yet then, I wondered, “Is this America?”
I have searched for that America for years, but to my eyes, the fact that people can come together like this in this great country recalls that sweet memory. I am not saying this to make you to vote for any particular candidate. I am saying this because there is a power somewhere that is bringing people together, and that power of Obama to make us all cry no matter who we are is only from above. It takes God to make the history that we are seeing.
It is a good thing that President Bush is going to Liberia tomorrow, the 21st of February. Wish he’d invited me along and given me a ticket on his plane so I would take him to my damaged village, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the next President. I know the way to that village still, you know. It is a good thing however, that America is making history with Hillary running, the first serious female candidate, the first former First Lady, and it is a good thing that Barack, the first black man, the first son of a white and black union is winning big. It is a good thing that I am alive to see all of this and it is a good thing that you are reading this and you too, are alive to record this for your children.