Eight years ago, this month, arguably the most monumental event happened in civic history. A black president was welcomed into the White House. As a resident of the UK, it feels as if this has transcended its own location and touched the hearts of people everywhere.
When I was twelve, I used to go up to my grandfather’s office and look around. I would be looking for paper and pens usually to write my stories on. Occasionally I would stumble across papers that he was looking at for students; he was a professor and doctor, a specialist in haematology. As you can probably gather, he was a very clever and hardworking man. That he was. But when I was twelve, I went up to office to meet him working on his computer replying to emails he had long forgotten to do. While looking for supplies for my latest story I had conjured up, grandpa stopped me and told me to look at a picture. This was a picture of a man, a mixed-race man, who was surrounded by lots of people, predominantly black, and they were all trying to touch his shoulders. My initial thoughts were that he was new saviour figure, which wasn’t too far to be believed as my grandpa was an inwardly religious man.
But no. This was a picture of Barack Obama, a few months after he had secured his presidency. To me this significance wasn’t great. At twelve, who isn’t politically ignorant and apathetic? To grandpa this was obvious. So, he sat me down and I got to listen to one of his famous hour long talks about everything and anything, but mainly on black history. How I miss them now.
I’m somebody who, now, engages with their mixed-race heritage. I am Sierra Leonean as well as English and Scottish. I have always been proud of this, but it really was after that conversation with my Grandpa seven years ago, that it really sunk in. But also with that pride came anguish. How could it be that because I was not completely white there is this glass ceiling. A glass ceiling that would prevent me from reaching some places that people in the same position as me would have access to because of their skin colour.
But Barack Obama over the years has slowly broken down that idea. He is somebody that I hugely admire. Not just because of his skin colour, but because of the kind of man he is. He is compassionate, learned and kind. Also, he brought Michelle Obama into our lives. It seems that we have a surplus of male role models but not so when it comes to women. But she really is at the top of the heap when it comes to my personal role models, regardless of sex. She, like her husband, is compassionate, learned and kind, but also, she’s graceful and powerful. She has shown me over the years that you don’t have to adopt almost male characteristics to get your voice heard.
Anyway, it was yesterday that Obama gave his farewell speech in Chicago, where he started his campaign a decade ago. I can safely say that I spent the most part of it in tears. Not just because of how beautifully written it is, but because this is an end of an era. For the now, this is the end of progression spearheaded by the “most respected seat in the country” (I stole that last bit from Meryl Streep).
As you’ve probably gathered, my wonderful grandpa has passed away. This is the first time I’ve posted about it, or really spoken about it since September 2016, when he died. I really can only say the only good thing, for lack of a better word, is that he got to go with hope, the hope that Clinton would be the next president. He never got to see how backward politics had become.
I love my grandpa more than I can express, more than I can put into words. I am forever grateful that he showed me that picture of Obama when I was twelve. He instilled in me this immense pride to be unapologetically me. And I thank Barack Obama, for making some of the most difficult decisions in the world. I thank for you bringing hope and happiness to millions of people in your country and around the world.