Not About Knitting – Last Night in St. Paul

I don’t think it matters who you plan to vote for in November, what happened last night in St. Paul, Minnesota will be in the history books forever. Yesterday, I took a stroll to return some library books mid-aftertoon, and decided to walk the next block to the Excel center and check out the crowd waiting for the Obama rally. I chatted with a young woman on the way over. She appeared to be originally Southeast Asian, perhaps Cambodian or Lao. She told me she had been an Americorps volunteer, that her brother and sister- in -law rushed to get their citizenship in time to vote in this election. She talked about reading Caroline Kennedy’s op-ed piece in the NYT, and that it gave her goose bumps. I thought how interesting it was, that Kennedy was dead many years before this woman was born, or her family came to the US, but his legacy mattered to her.

At the X, the diversity of the crowd that was forming was inspiring. It was evident to me that this was much more than a political rally. It was still a workday, so there were lots of students and retirees, but the number and variety of families surprised me. There were many African American moms and dads with kids in tow to witness this moment, to carry with them proof that while racism is not dead, it is not the end, either. There were many white, Asian and Latino families, too. There were young white men in St. Paul Wild hockey sweaters. I saw an older white couple, and heard the woman say to the man “I don’t care. This is the coolest thing I have ever done!” I thought she was right. It didn’t matter if I had to stand on line for a while, how could I miss this moment?

I live very close, so I went home, ate some supper, and my husband and I went back. By now, the length of the line was staggering, nearly two miles long, but we figured at least we would be in the company of thousands of like-minded persons. We walked and walked to find the end of the line, and then saw one of my closest friends. Her husband didn’t want to stand around for that long, so dropped her off and she was on her own, chatting with a young man who turned out to be from her home state of Indiana. (We ditched, but we were almost at the end, really.)

It was a regular party, I tell you. We had no idea if we would even get in. It didn’t feel like 2 hours on the cement. (But my legs know that this morning.) The waitress from a restaurant we frequent was in line in front of us, so we got to know her a bit. There was a young man in a Bob Marley t-shirt I started talking to because he was by himself. He was an immigrant from Somalia via Kenya. He can’t vote in this election, but wanted to be there, just the same. We talked about the history of racism in the US. He told me he was too young to know of it first hand, but has heard the stories, of course. He looked at me with a bit of grin – “So, do you now believe that miracles can happen?” I do, I surely do. That in this crazy world, in spite of the racism and fear that surrounds us, a black American is now the nominee of the Democratic party surely seems like a miracle. I felt so proud to be there last night. It’s been a while since I felt proud to be American. I have been ashamed of late of what some have done in the name of this country. Last night, I cried tears of joy and hope for my country. I thought of my parents and my immigrant grandparents and the great stretch of history that brought us to that historic moment I was witness to. Yes, we can.

MLE

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12 responses to “Not About Knitting – Last Night in St. Paul

  1. Thanks for sharing this – I got a bit sniffly reading it, because I know just what you meant in those last few sentences.

  2. How exciting to have been there. We saw it on the news.

  3. Cool. So glad you were there.

  4. thanks for sharing! i’m sending this to my peeps.
    chris

  5. Thank you for sharing. I wish I could have been there but reading your piece allowed me to share in the feeling. This is a proud moment for our country.

  6. Thanks for sharing.

    We were next door at Roy Wilkins Auditorium for graduation ceremonies.

    A night to remember for us all.

  7. Great post. I love your description of the line and who was in it. Its been a long time since I’ve had that excited/hopeful feeling of what this country could be.

  8. That is sooooo derned cool. History in the making – aren’t you a lucky gal to have been there?

  9. I have tears in my eyes.

    Thanks for sharing your story – what a moving tribute to the energy just waiting to be tapped in this country!

    (Love your photo, too.)

  10. Thanks for sharing! Sounds very cool.

    Unfortunately I can’t help but think the young man from Somalia will get to know racism first hand. I’m a white chick from a white community but was always taught racism is wrong (even by my Southern grandmother) and I thought everyone, at least on our community, was taught that and thought that as well. Then when I was in college, my best friend was black and we went to one of my favourite restaurants for dinner. We walked in and it took me an entire nanosecond to realize that everyone in the restaurant was staring at us. The tension was palpable and the racism as clear as crystal. I was shocked and asked if she wanted to leave, but we stayed and had a decent meal. I never went in the place again and always let her choose in the future. It was a horrifying experience to suddenly find out that what I had taken as a given was only a given for me. It turns out that she had known, but thought what the heck, we’ll go. I’m glad she went with me. It was the best lesson in racism that I’ve ever had and I would have never known had she not had the courage to go with me.

  11. What a gorgeous post. And yes, in spite of the kinds of continuing racism that Melinda describes, this gives me hope.

  12. Good luck, America.

    And from the other side of the world I just want to say please, remember that you’re voting not just for you, but for the rest of the planet as well. The result will affect us all.

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