Before even saying hello, the first thing to come out of my mother’s mouth was “I’m so proud of you.” Going home to Atlanta this time around, I felt a sense of urgency. I was not homesick or flying home for a holiday. It was my time to make a contribution to this country’s history. I was voting for the first time.
This whole year up until November 4, 2008 seemed to fly by. It felt like it was just last month that Barack Obama beat Hilary Clinton in the Iowa caucus. Or that last week, I was sitting in Cramton Auditorium listening to Obama making his acceptance speech to be the Democratic candidate for presidency. Or maybe it was yesterday that I applied for my absentee ballot. However, I applied for my ballot back in the beginning on August and again in the middle of October. I began feeling as if I would not be able to vote and slightly, I had begun to accept it.
The morning of November 3, 2008, I texted my cousin, who is also a Howard student. He had told me that AirTran had student tickets for only eighty dollars. On a whim, I asked if he would fly home with me to vote, and shortly before six o’clock that same day, the plane was landing at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport.
Although I knew my mother and grandmother were upset that I needed extra money to come home, they did not complain. My mother told me to be ready by six in the morning so that we could go get in line at the polling station. I, however, did not think this was necessary. In my community, the same people come to neighborhood watch meetings and PTA events, so I was not expecting a heavy turnout. When we pulled up to the church that we were to vote at, the line was nearly out of the parking lot.
An old woman in front of me asked me to hold her spot while she ran to the car. She came back with her reading glasses and said, “Without these, I would have voted for McCain.” Guys that normally would hang out on the corner a minute away from my house were in line behind me, frantically making phone calls to their friends, making sure they were on their way so that they could have a better spot in line.
With the polls opening at 7 a.m., I was surprised that we got inside by eight, but then my luck ran out.
The man at the table told me that the computer showed that I had been issued an absentee ballot and I would not be able to vote. I argued and pleaded and came to the point of tears. They reluctantly said I could fill out a provisional ballot. I did it and got a sticker to prove I had voted, but once I got in the car with my mother, I broke down crying. I knew my vote would not count and I began fearing that I was not the only one who would run into this problem on this day.
The night of the election, listening to the CNN on XM radio on my flight back to D.C., I knew Barack Obama had an enormous lead over John McCain. I figured I could make it back to Howard University’s campus before the official announcement was made. One stop on the Metro train from Howard, a gentleman stepped on and began screaming about how Obama had already won. I felt excited and even more pressed to get back to campus. Walking on Georgia Avenue, all I heard were car horns and every car seemed to be playing the same song: Young Jeezy’s “My President is Black.”
I hurried and dropped my things off and ran up to the yard. It was crazier than homecoming. People had already lost their voices and did not care that it had started raining. We had a black president! I called my grandmother, who all that day was reluctant to celebrate before anything officially was announced. The things that she has seen over her 72 years have made her wary of American politics. “They can throw anything in the game”, she said. But this night, she too was rejoicing, “It feels the same as when Kennedy was elected.”
Looking back, I’d rather not know whether or not my vote counted, because to me it did. I took personal responsibility to have my voice heard in this country. Although Georgia was red for McCain, it does not matter. My candidate is going to the White House and because of people just like me; this country can look forward to change over the next four or eight (hopefully) years.