The Saturday Night Live tribute to Former President Barack Oabama was truly touching to me. In a nut shell, Cicely Strong and Sasheer Zamata, standing under a black and white portrait of POTUS #44, summed up my relationship with Mr. Obama with an emotional rendition of “To Sir, With Love”, the moving song sung by Barabara “Babs” Pegg, played byLulu, to thank her teacher of school and in life Mr. Mark Thackeray, played by the talented Sidney Portier, in the movie by the same name.
In the beginning I had my doubts about Mr. Obama. He wasn’t a hard hittin’ homie ready to make shit real enough for the black community in my book. He was too busy trying to appeal to people who had no intention of ever being appealed, the conservative right and the social establishment controlled by the people who say they wish for all of us to be racially generic. I resisted his cool demeanor. I was insulted by the way he would try and placate any fear of black favoritism by keeping the black community at arm’s length for the most part.
But Mr. Obama had a game to play and he couldn’t do the things he was able to do if he got hunkered down in a racially charged fight by standing on one side of the racial divide or the other. There were bigger fish to fry in the limited time he held the keys that unlocked the deepest secrets of this kingdom. He focused on doing his best for everybody in the most non threatening way he could. I understood that was what he felt he had to do back then. I understand just the same now. But now I guess I have a little more empathy for his position, although I would like to think that if I was in the same position I would do things differently. And that’s probably why I would never be elected President of the United States (as if that feat was ever in danger of actually happening).
And to see him turn the cheek on all the people who would use whatever position of influence he or she possessed to belittle him in ways no President of the United States ever suffered. He’s the achievement of every black individual and every black celebrity and every black person of pride and every black person who’s the first to achieve anything rolled into one. He was able to break into the most exclusive club on the planet open to every citizen of this country. He became the first black POTUS. And that is something no conservative, politician or critic, will ever take from him for as long as anyone has a reason to remember the social construct known as the United States of America.
I have to admit I had a stiff upper lip when I heard the news that Donald J. Chump would become the 45th President of the United States. I also have to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to a Hillary Clinton as POTUS either. The majority of her speeches were dull, she appeared to be aloof in too many public appearances, and she should have done a better job with a lot of her campaigning. But given the choices I think the lady was clearly the best and most qualified person for the job of running our collective’s business when compared to Mr. Chump. A lot of people felt that she had it in the bag. But a lot of people were also saying that a lot of her supporters were in danger of taking this past election for granted. The results speak for themselves. When the results manifested late that early November Tuesday election night, I tried to console myself in the comforting thought that we were warned. We the people of the United States had a chance and we blew it.
Ever since that night I was able to look into the unwelcoming abyss called the future with President Trump with acceptance; the kind of acceptance that resembles the resolve of Captain Kirk riding his starship into the jaws of hell. And I’m not talking about Captain James T. Kirk who had always managed to cheat death at the last minute. I’m talking about his father, Captain George Samuel Kirk, played by Chris Hemsworth in the rebirth of the Star Trek franchise. George Kirk was captain of the USS Kelvin for all of twelve minutes. But he welcomed death as his inevitability when he rammed his ship into the Romulan vessel from the future. When you know the gig is up you have no choice but to ride that last ride through.
So yeah, I had a sense of acceptance. The future is cast and the chips are steadily falling where they may. I may not like it. But I will not go gently into that night like a little self absorbed bitch. Chin up. Head high. I watched as the Borg Queen told me that my world was ending and there was nobody coming to save me from what the American political system had wrought. I watched the clock wind down to the Trump inauguration. I watched as the true to life personification of the Omen’s Damien attains the throne of the world for the sake of his hellish father’s bidding. I watched the protest gather momentum yesterday over the world as people demonstrated to remind the Trump administration as to where the true power resides. I watched it all without looking back to what we were losing and what we are giving up.
And then to wind things up this weekend of the beginning of the end, for the first time in years, I actually took the time to watch Saturday Night Live as it broadcasted from New York City. I was impressed with the quality of the show. Over the years I have seen videos and outtakes and bits and pieces of skits over the years. But last night was the first time in years I actually was up late on a Saturday night and I bothered to turn the television to NBC to watch the show. I couldn’t even tell you the last cast I saw. I know it was post Eddie Murphy. Maybe it was when Keenan Thompson became a regular. Regardless, the show was guest hosted by Aziz Ansari and it was the funniest I’ve seen from SNL in forever. And Big Sean was the musical talent. I’m embarrassed to say that I have never taken the time to listen to this artist. I will be trying to learn more about him in the immediate future. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and if that was just a sample of what they’ve been doing lately I’m going to have to make a special effort to set the DVR for future episodes.
The show was winding down with only a handful of minutes left to spare. Coming back from commercial the show reopened with Ms. Strong standing on a darkened stage, highlighted under a single spot light, in front of the portrait of Mr. Obama. Without any fanfare or distraction the music starts and Ms. Strong sings, “Those school girl days…” Immediately my attention level piqued a couple of notches.. It had been years since I’ve even thought of this movie. But I suddenly remember Sidney Portier standing in front of those white English kids helping to prepare them for the future. They were better prepared than many of them thought was ever possible. The group of students that started out as nothing more than future residents of the penal system, began to see the world through the eyes of people ready to take responsibility for their fate with a seriousness that evaded them before. And they had the black American to thank for their newfound perspective. The somber tone of the song enveloped me. “How do you thank someone that has taken you from crayons to perfume?” It’s not easy but I will try.
My eyes started to well up. For eight years I had the luxury to just sit back. I thank you Mr. Obama for giving my family and I as well as all of my friends, my co workers, my associates, my neighborhood, my fellow citizens of this country and the world, an example of leadership and of dignity that has become rare and special. I thank your wife, the essence of black royalty and the world’s first black First Lady. I thank your daughters Sasha and Malia for enduring the spotlight that had become their world and seeing it through to the end with a maturity that is exceptional for such young people. I thank your mother in law for being there to help you through everything the world has put you through. But most of all by far, I thank you for your service! No one could have done better.