She held my hand tightly. Squeezing her pain into my body. Her eyes stared directly into mine and with a deep Jamaican accent, she said to me, “Me can’t beg, but I los’ everyting…my house is gon’.” We spoke the same language. She needed to say no more. The residents of Far Rockaway, Queens had been devastated by Hurricane Sandy, and this was the sixth day they had been without power, running water or heat. I was leading a group of volunteers at a food and supply distribution center and she was one of the last people to arrive looking for help. For this resilient woman, her house was near the beach and she received eight feet of water and hundreds of pounds of sand inside her home. All she wanted to do was clean up the mess. She wanted nothing else but cleaning supplies. Every store within miles was closed. She didn’t want food. She didn’t want clothing. She just wanted a broom, Clorox and some cleaning gloves. As I handed over a bucket full of supplies, I held her hand. Looked her in the eyes. And said, ‘don’t give up, we take care of our own.’ She cried. I cried.
As I wiped the tears from my eyes, it was 2AM. Barack Obama had won a second term in the White House. Our journey together as a nation trying to perfect our union moved forward. But, one thing was very clear from election night. A new America is emerging. While clowns like Bill O’Reilly, Donald Trump and angry white men cling to their racism and profiteering card tricks, the voters let all the jokers know that 2008 wasn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime moment, it was the beginning of our movement.
We not only elected Barack Obama to four more years…we elected the first openly gay Senator…we elected to Congress an Iraq war veteran who lost both of her legs in battle…we elected Elizabeth Warren, the people’s champ, to sit in the chair once held by Ted Kennedy…we gave pink slips to two old white men who tried to re-define rape…we passed marriage equality in Maine, Washington and Maryland and held off a constitution ban in Minnesota…we legalized marijuana in Colorado and Washington…we showed up in record numbers…for heaven’s sake, we were still waiting in line to vote in Florida even after President Obama gave his victory speech.
We knew exactly what this election meant to our generation. To the future of our nation. To the future of our compassion. The future of our tolerance. To the future of our generosity. We must paint the picture of this new America ourselves, as we control our own destiny. No matter what zip code you come from. Or what your last name might be. What education you could afford. Or what job you might hold. We take care of our own. No matter how much struggle you have endured. No matter how much pain you have suffered. No matter how many years you have fought a war overseas. We take care of our own. Whether you are straight, gay, bi or transgender and want to marry your loved one, we take care of our own. If you came here as an immigrant and dream like the rest of us. Or your family has been here for generations. We are an America that will take care of our own. If your spirit has been weathered by a hurricane, we will certainly take care of our own. We leave nobody behind. We are and always will be, The UNITED States of America.
Every young person, every black person, every Latino, every person of color, every progressive white person, every member of the LGBT community, every veteran, every woman…. WE DID IT!!
Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of GlobalGrind.com and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik