Sunday, November 9, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Nairobi, Kenya
November 6 2008

This was the second day I was still glued to my bedroom TV, not venturing out of my doorsteps since I last witnessed Obama’s victory. Attempts to get me out of my house by numerous friends came to nothing. The euphoria and partying in the cities of Nairobi didn’t appeal to me much. I was too engrossed in my thoughts about the meaning of this victory to be bothered by marauding crowds.

Part of the reason I stayed indoors was to go through what I had written about Obama in the last two years for the East African newspapers. I wanted to find out how right or wrong I was about the Obama political fortunes. I am glad to report that history has vindicated me. I promised that he would be the first Black president of the United States way back in October 2006 when he visited Kenya and it came to pass. I repeated my prediction in another article after listening to his Martin Luther Memorial Speech in Indianapolis on April 4, 2008 when I visited the US then and it too came to pass.

Another reason I stayed indoors was to go through all the mails I, like millions of Obama supporters worldwide had been receiving from Barack Obama, his wife Michelle and his campaign managers. More than anything else, these letters were as appealing as they were personal despite the fact that they were sent to millions of people across the globe. The authors were on first name terms with each one of us.

Being a non-American citizen, I had no power to cast my vote for Obama. I was not even allowed to send my small contribution to this worthy cause. It was clear from the beginning that this was an American thing and any foreign interference or influence could greatly hurt Obama’s chances of success. I respected my limitations.

However, as a non- American, I knew there was something I could still do. I knew of many White and Black American friends; some Democrats while others were Republicans. I also knew a number of American friends who had never voted, mostly immigrant African Americans including some of my family members. These were the people I knew I could do something about in my weekly columns. I made it my duty to get them to vote for Obama, thousands of miles away from America. And they did.

And so, soon after my daughter Rima called me from Atlanta screaming that we had won; I sat on my bed so early in the morning and thanked the Almighty God for making the Dream of Martin Luther King and the dream of millions of people across the globe come true. Yes, Martin Luther King’s dream had come to pass in our lifetime!

As I sat up waiting for John McCain to concede defeat, I saw Barack Obama’s mail pop up on my laptop! I thought that was crazy. How could this man even think of writing to his supporters even before he accepts his victory? Which politician on earth would think of his supporters first before anything else?
Then I read the letter Obama wrote on November 4, 2008 at 11.42 PM Eastern Time in America. It said this:

“JERRY I'm about to head to Grant Park to talk to everyone gathered there, but I wanted to write to you first. We just made history. And I don't want you to forget how we did it. You made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbours about why you believe it's time for change.

I want to thank all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign. We have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track, and I'll be in touch soon about what comes next. But I want to be very clear about one thing... All of this happened because of you. Thank you,
Barack “

However, because I was still dumbfounded about what had just happened, the import of this letter from Obama didn’t sink in. I don’t think I even listened to his victory speech keenly. Only later after I heard it over and over again did I realize the profoundness of this speech. Then it dawned on me that this man Barack Obama had fulfilled Martin Luther King’s American Dream with his “Yes We Can” acceptance speech in Illinois.

Two days later, I read his letter more keenly. Only then did I realize that he had thanked me personally as he did to millions of Americans and other nationalities across the globe that had believed in his “Yes We Can” message and supported him to the end.

He reminded me along with others that together, we had made history; that each one of us millions of his supporters made history every single day of his campaign every day we did something in his name. Yes, he acknowledged and thanked us for our time, talent and passion to his campaign. Most of all, he reaffirmed that he won because of us millions who stood by him for two years on the most ambitious and complex political campaign in world history.

At this point in time; this article would not be complete without acknowledging why I and many of my generation feel a special attachment to this momentous event in our lifetime. Had not Walter Rodney, Kimani Gecau, Micere Mugo, Nikki Giovanni and other intellectuals of the 1970s exposed us to Black American and indeed the Black race struggle worldwide, we would never really have appreciated Barack Obama they way we did. Because of these great people, we delved into the lives of Martin Luther King, Fredrick Douglas, Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Booker T Washington, Nelson Mandela, Sedar Senghor, Kwame Nkrumah and many other freedom fighters that inspired our fight for greater freedom.

Along with this expanded intellectualism, pride in the Black race became the in-thing with artists like James Brown, Mohammed Ali and Isaac Hayes taking this fight and self esteem to new heights. For the first time in history, Black children were born to believe that they too could make it. This is the era that Barack Obama was born in.

As we sample Obama’s spectacular victory, let us spare a thought to the departed heroes who fought the good fight and passed on. Let us back home think of Tom Mboya, JM Kariuki and Pio Gama Pinto. Let us spare a thought and pay tribute to Julius Nyerere next door, Kwame Nkrumah and Patrice Lumumba’s still troubled Congo. Let us remember Sedar Senghor of Senegal, Franz Fanon of Algeria, Okot P’Bitek of Uganda and Bob Marley for raising our consciousness to higher levels.
And as Obama reminded us in his acceptance speech; there are even harder challenges ahead. Therefore the struggle is far from over.

Meanwhile there is no doubt a new American Camelot has finally been crowned! And right now, Martin Luther King can scream from the heavens and rightly say, “Freedom at Last! Freedom at Last!”
Aluta continua, continua!