My Obama Moment: ESSENCE Readers Salute the First Family
As we celebrate the re-election of President Barack Obama, ESSENCE readers share their favorite memories of the First Family from the past four years, the ones that infused them with a sense of wonder and personal pride.
Roz Beauty, 30, New York City
“I remember election night 2008 so clearly. I showed my 1-year-old daughter a picture of Obama and explained to her that this is the President. He’s the first President she will ever know and he happens to be African-American. My daughter won’t have the same revelation we had, like, ‘Oh, my God! I thought I would never see it happen!’ For her it will be the norm, and nothing tops that."
Lorenita Lucas, 46, Washington, D.C.
“I had been looking forward to hearing Obama speak at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, when he was Senator of Illinois. Not a lot of people knew who he was, but I’m a real politics nerd. When I saw Obama speak, it was like the stars had aligned. I was like, ‘Wow, this is a firecracker!'”
Yolanda Green, 28, Chicago
“Before he was elected, President Obama used to come right here to the neighborhood and get his hair cut almost every week. Everyone in the community suspected he was going to win, so there would be people standing in front of the shop waiting to see him. You couldn’t get too close to greet him, but he’d still come out, wave and say, ‘Hey, everyone. Thanks for coming out.’ He made contact with the community and it was clear he really cared about us. That meant a lot to me.”
Sass Diop, 39, New York City
“Before the last election I invested myself heavily in knocking on doors and making phone calls for his campaign. And it is something that I will always be proud of because I feel like I contributed to his presidency, to his election. When he won, it was one of the best moments of my life.”
Darilyn Williams, 28, Hillcrest Heights, MD
“I’ll never forget the night of the 2008 election. Obama’s picture popped up at the bottom of the TV screen. It was one of those stock photos and the caption said, ‘Obama has won.’ I cried. I screamed. I ran into the room to my mom. We cried. We screamed. It was just a huge moment. It meant I did not have to be afraid to have children. And definitely not afraid to have a boy because I knew he had someone to look to as a prominent example of why you have to get your education, of why you have to be strong and calm in a storm. It still gets me a little teary-eyed just thinking about it now.”
Joe Hawthorne, 33, Washington, D.C.
“Obama passing the Affordable Care Act was so important to me. My family owns a small consulting business and one of the problems we’ve had is that my sister has a preexisting medical condition, so she had to work for a larger corporation in order to get coverage. Now we’ll be able to do more for ourselves because we can get coverage for her through our own independent plan. That’s a big step for us businesswise and personally, because it’s my sister.”
Shonta' Rogers, 30, Atlanta
“I am huge into the fitness industry and I really believe in encouraging people, especially children, to be healthier and helping them understand that it’s a lifestyle, not a moment. I really am happy that Michelle Obama, as a woman in the spotlight of the nation, is able to bring along a program to encourage fitness, wellness and taking care of yourself.”
Sheila Poole, 62, Washington, D.C.
“I am proud of Mrs. Obama every day when I awaken and realize that children and families are strengthened because of her healthy-living style and her stepping up and showing us how it’s done. She serves us so well in so many ways. I am proud of the whole family.”
Philip Weatherspoon, 27, Charlotte, N.C.
“As I watched the President take his oath of office, I was holding my grandmother’s hand. She is almost 80 years old, and lived through Jim Crow and segregation. Watching her face was so memorable. I felt that for once America stood for all that it represented — a land of opportunity for everyone, a new start as a country. Even for myself, that moment represented that I can do anything and achieve everything I want to achieve.”
Jennifer Gwendolyn Baker, 28, New York City
“I remember listening to the President’s acceptance speech, when he was first elected. It felt like the dawn of a new day. Like times were changing and we weren’t the United States of Democrats or Republicans, but the United States of America. We were all united. I felt that things were really going to turn around and be great for the country.”
Denali Nova Houston, 23, Atlanta
“In the midst of war, sicknesses and death the Obamas still maintained their family values. It’s nice to see a great family dynamic with people of color.”
Charles Varner, 46, Atlanta
“My most memorable moment was when the President came onstage after we’d killed Osama Bin Laden. The coolness, the composure — it exemplifies the President at his best.”
Dormowa Sherman, 28, Chicago
“Inauguration night 2008, we had an amazing turnout of folks who went to downtown Chicago to take part in that monumental moment. It made me proud just to witness someone whom I used to see doing work in my own community — and who really deserved it — become the President of the United States.”
Antoine Ashe, 22, New York City
“I remember when President Obama came to Harlem and visited the Apollo. I was present for that. India.Arie and Al Green were there as well. Just to see the President up close, there’s nothing like it. His aura, his presence. It was like the difference between watching him on TV and having him in your own backyard.”
Hynefah Malcolm, 22, Atlanta
“The moment Obama was elected, I felt like everything they were saying about young Black people’s vote counting was true. Our voice does matter. President Obama being elected showed us that we can be strong if we come together.”
Donnell Mitchell, 31, Chicago
“I’m really proud of how well President Obama has addressed the issue of health care despite his critics. I remember hearing one of his first speeches about the issue and felt a great deal of respect for him. It’s not every day that politicians fight for equal access for all people. I knew right then that he was someone different.”
Derek Nurse, 66, Chicago
“I remember when Trayvon Martin was shot in Florida and the President said that could have been his son. I commend him for that. People might say he took a side because he’s an African-American, but I was impressed that he stood for something he believed in. A lot of people in his position would have side-stepped the issue, but he took a stand and that shows he’s strong and true to himself.”
Shanita Johnson, 62, Atlanta
“President Barack Obama is my hero because he saved this country from depression. I believe our reputation as a nation has been brightened around the world. He couldn’t have done what he has done without genius skill.”
Aston Johnson, 59, Chicago
“As someone who’s lived in Chicago for more than 40 years, it means a lot to have a president who looks like the people in my neighborhood. My son is 30 years old now, a grown man with his own family. But when he was young, he heard Obama, then a senator, speak at his school. You could see the light in the faces of the students when he spoke. Now that’s a story my son can pass on to his own children.”
George Lee Miles, 68, New York City
“We have been in North America more than 500 years and the fact that finally a Black man was elected President made me feel good. Now young Black boys in this nation and around the world realize it can be done.”