Photo Essay

Sunset on an Era

Sunset on an Era

All of the days leading up to the election I wondered how I would feel if Obama was elected president. I spent the nights shaking off the alternate ending. On Election Day another night's sleep was lost to dawn, so I made good use of my time. I phone banked for the Obama campaign to voters in Ohio.

At seven o'clock in the morning my husband, daughter and I rushed to our polling place carrying with us our parents' civil rights experiences, aspirations of our American Dream for true equality and the power to make it happen. We snickered on the way with our Obama t-shirts under our sweaters. Electioneering, HA!

The line was an hour long. We waited with the rest of the jovial crowd taking pictures and making neighborly small talk with the other pieces of my dream's puzzle.

I craned my neck to see the people at the front of the line. Their faces weren't somber, but reflective and hopeful. The line stopped me at the threshold of the polling place. The anxiety that robbed me of sleep each night for weeks returned. I reflected on the possibilities and what it meant to my family. I am fifth of six children and I am the first person in my family that never had to ride in the back of the bus. I am forty four.

It was instilled in our up bringing that we could be anything we wanted to be. My parents are both dead, but my beautiful in laws were college students at Talladega University in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. I call them Mom and Pop.

Pop and Mom were once marching in a demonstration and a hate monger spit on Mom. That was the last time Pop participated. You see peace was the means by which change was to come in that era. Pop was not going to be a peaceful protestor under any circumstances. Eye for an eye...could get you killed. Pop lent his brains to others areas of the movement

Mom was arrested on several occasions and bailed out by Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. repeatedly. A letter was sent from Talladega University to her parents with the hopes that they would understand the reasons for Mom's participation in the organized demonstrations. The letter espoused that the arrests were a necessary means of making democracy a living reality and to "eliminate the segregation of public facilities in the city."

You may read more about the circumstances of the letter in my husband's diary.

While waiting the results of this election, Mom sat quietly thinking about the smell of the pillow in the jail cell. She remembered the food tray that was pushed through the opening in the bars. She remembered 1963 when her 86 pound frame was dragged from a five and dime store for ordering a coke. Mom is only sixty four.

Throughout the campaign Mom told me that she was afraid to dream Obama could be president because on every occasion victory had been snatched from her generation's clutches. And places in the heart once filled with hope were replaced with the agony of never fully believing true equality would come in her lifetime. On Election Day Mom wondered, "What would be if Obama won?"

I put my absentee ballot in the box, collected my sticker and began to capture the moment in photos while my husband and daughter voted.

We returned home to find an Obama door hanger on our door and spontaneously danced in the front yard. We were pleased that the Obama ground game was working so well. I phone banked in Pennsylvania to pass the time.

This California day was full of surreal beauty with a turquoise blue sky and a mosaic of rare cumulous clouds. The sunset reminded me of the Obama Hope campaign logo. I bathed in the glow of a spectacular day with hope waffling towards the belief that tonight's sunset was on an era.

The jubilation seen on television was no less exuberant in my home. We screamed. We cried. We danced.

We no longer wonder how it would feel if Obama were elected. We know.

We feel tall. We feel proud. We feel free

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10 responses

  • Nelson Campbell

    Nelson Campbell (Deleted) gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    Sherry - Tears and chills while reading this beautiful, beautiful, wonderful piece of writing and photgraphy...I hope you don't mind if I send it. I hope it sees publication here....November 4, 2008, a sea change on so many levels it's hard to comprehend them all. One of the happiest days of my life.

  • Michael Fancher

    Michael Fancher gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    You have my vote and I voted for Obama too! Great story!!!

  • John Linton

    John Linton gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    Oh yeah! Your essay rocks!

  • Karen K Smith

    Karen K Smith gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    Sherry this is well a well written heartfelt story and the photos are great. For the first time in my life "I'm proud to be an American". Good job!

  • Lynn H

    Lynn H (Deleted) gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    I for one think this story should be published! Isn't America great! Your family is amazing and your essay needs to be shared with so many!

  • Jeff H

    Jeff H (Deleted) gave props (9 Nov 2008):

    I agree, this story should be published! Although I won't ever know what it's like to grow up African-American in this country, I felt much the same way as your family did that day as well. I felt an awesome responsibility to insure that he got elected. I have a hope and an optimism that I've never had about our country before. It was so exciting to take my young children to the polls and make sure they knew how significant the moment was. Bravo on your family and your essay. Voted

  • Arla Ruggles

    Arla Ruggles gave props (11 Nov 2008):

    Excellent story -- so very well expressed in those few words and images. As a Libertarian floating in a sea of Republicans, it was a great day for me, also.

  • Jean Pierre Vacherot

    Jean Pierre Vacherot (Deleted) gave props (13 Nov 2008):

    Great photo essay, my vote

  • Jose Antonio González

    Jose Antonio González gave props (18 Jan 2009):


  • molly .

    molly . gave props (22 Jun 2009):

    this is a supremely powerful series of photos and essay. as a daughter of a black man who grew up during the civil rights movement and a mother with German and other European roots, i have so many stories about what it is like to grow up "American." the election of President Obama was the most powerful event of my life. i finally feel like our country will be dragged out of the rut it was put in for 8 years. i only wish i could have voted... just 4 more years...

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