“I’M IN!”

Taken at the Obama Victory Fund 2012 Kick-Off on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at Sony Pictures Studio, Stage 30 in Culver City, CA.

I first heard about Barack Obama in 2000 when I was working on the Democratic National Convention here in Los Angeles. I was a researcher for the in-house television network, Democracy Live, which was aired in the main hall (Staples Center), the Convention Center and convention hotels. A couple of days before the convention started, one of the segment producers quit in a huff and lo and behold, I became a segment producer. One of the shows I produced was a hour panel discussion, Friends of Al Gore, which was hosted by Academy Award nominated director Rob Reiner.

In the process of gathering materials for the various programs we produced, I came across news stories about a very bitter race for a congressional seat in Chicago, IL.  Obama was challenging incumbent congressman (and former Black Panther) Bobby Rush and got “rushed” in the primary. Obama himself described this time as the low point in his life and political career. He’s told the story many times of being so down that when he came to LA for the convention that summer, no one knew who he was and his credit card was rejected when he tried to rent a car (been there, done that).

I don’t remember exactly when I heard about Barack Obama again, but it must have been sometime in 2003 when he, still an Illinois state senator, launched a bid for the US Senate. After winning a grueling primary, his Republican challenger had to drop out of the race when sordid details of his divorce surfaced and Obama defeated the imported Alan Keyes for the seat. But, even before his election to the Senate in November 2004, it was his electrifying, star-making keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that put him in the nation’s conscience where he’s remained ever since.

Like many others, I became intrigued by Barack Obama and his rise to the Senate and the forefront of the Democratic Party. So, when he came to Los Angeles on a book tour right before the 2006 fall elections, I went to hear him speak at the Urban Issues Breakfast Forum at the California African-American  Museum. To say that I was inspired is to say that Earth, Wind & Fire was a “pretty good band back in the day.” I turned to my best friend, L. Bishop Austin, and said, “Man, he’s got to run for president.” From that moment, I was totally for Barack Obama for President of the United States and I remain so today.

The next time I saw Mr. Obama in person was at a rally in mid-2007 at Jackie Robinson Stadium near my house. He was different in that “life has changed for me” kind of way that happens to anyone in that position. He had gone from the longest of long-shots against the likes of Hillary Clinton who because of her husband, former president Bill Clinton, retained a huge and devoted following in the African-American community to someone the media was paying a lot of attention to. I had family and friends who were so devoted to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that I couldn’t get anyone to attend the rally with me. But, I went not only because I believed in his campaign and platform even then, but because I felt that this country truly didn’t need more of the same and to me, that’s what Hillary Clinton represented.

I left the rally inspired and uplifted. I came home and immediately started blogging about Barack Obama for President. Slowly but surely, the tide turned both nationally and among my group of family and friends. It took a while, many discussions – some so heated, that we had to agree to stop talking about the race so it wouldn’t hurt our friendship – but I eventually brought them to see “The Light” as one of them laughingly put it.

We all know what happened in 2007 and 2008 and what has transpired since. And now, seemingly in the blink of an eye, here we go again. It’s time for Barack Obama to run again.

I’d already made up my mind to do even more this time around – more on that to come in the next few weeks – when I received an email that there would be a 2012 campaign kickoff event here in Los Angeles. I eagerly looked at the details and was crestfallen when I saw the ticket prices. As most of you know, I’m disabled, in school and to say that I live on a fixed income is to say that Aretha Franklin can sing. But, blessings come when you least expect them and from places and/or people you may not even know exist. And that’s exactly what happened earlier this week.

I found out that there was a very limited number of tickets available at a price I could afford if I didn’t eat for the rest of the month (just kidding). And on Thursday night, April 21,once again with L. Bishop Austin, I attended an event for Barack Obama. But, this time, it was different in every way from the amount of security surrounding the Sony Pictures Studios area to the simple fact that this time, I wouldn’t be seeing Illinois’ junior senator, I would be seeing the President of the United States.

Because of my many years in the entertainment industry and being around politics through my uncle, former LA City Councilman David S. Cunningham, Jr, I’ve been many places and met many famous and “important” people. But last night, even though I had no chance of actually meeting him or shaking his hand as the lucky few in the front row got to (no I’m not bitter, just insanely, irrationally jealous, but I digress), topped them all.

Last night, on Soundstage 30 on the Sony Pictures Studio lot in Culver City, CA, I saw and heard Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th and first African-American President of the United States. For someone born in segregated Memphis, Tennessee, the grandson of a minister who was a soldier in the struggle for Civil Rights  who marched with Dr. King across the South and at the March on Washington and served as president of the Memphis branch of the NAACP during some of its most turbulent times, this was a moment that I simply could not have imagined I would ever have in life.

I’m not going to get into what the president said last night (you can find his remarks on any number of websites) because frankly, as important as his words were, what was most important to me was who said them.   

Barack Obama has inspired me, even at this older stage of my life, to want to do more for myself, my family, my friends, my neighborhood, my city, my state, my country, my world.

I left Thursday night’s event tired but ecstatic. I left ready for the fight ahead. I left knowing that there is much work to be done and ready to do it.

I left saying, over and over again, “I’m In!”

I hope you are too.

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