The Obama Campaign comes to Sac City College

Yesterday was a rather different day at Sacramento City College. There was a small but noisy march for Barack Obama on campus, and I have to admit, I was very pleased that nearly all of the participants were young students of all races. That inspired me to drop in on the rally after I got off work at noon. I figured I would re-live some of my old experiences as a novice newspaper reporter, covering all the latest happenings around Sacramento. That's what I attempted to do, at least. It didn't always happen.

There I go, talking about ancient history. I guess once you're a reporter, a part of you is always a reporter. Like I said, my journalistic curiosity was piqued by the loud chants of "It's time for a change! It's time for a change!" I decided to that I wanted to see if these young people were really ready for a change.

The crowd in the Student Center was rather small, even by City College standards. There was a larger crowd in the cafeteria last semester when two girls were cat fighting over some guy, who stood nearby with a smirk on his face. It's a shame, but it's true. The crowd may have been small, but the level of enthusiasm in the room was invigorating to a sentimental middle-aged ex-reporter who misses the thrill of covering an important event. Make no mistake, though. I say that I miss it, but I won't do it again. Chasing down leads and trying to beat the deadline crunch is a young people's game. Everyone I used to know in the newspaper business has retired and started doing something else, or they became editors. Sitting in a chair all day while yelling for copy seems like a sensible alternative to the daily (or weekly) deadline grind for a middle-aged news hawk.

About the rally--well, it was a fairly standard rally, as far I was concerned. This is the cynical ex-reporter in me talking, but I've seen hundreds of them. The challenge has always been how to report an event without making it read like the one before, and the one before that, and the one before that. The business definitely has its share of tedium. So, since I'm not getting paid to report events anymore, I'll take the lazy, shorthand approach: Rock band played first. A bit loud for a small, confined space (age is definitely showing, but the music was enjoyable). A young lady whose name I didn't catch (ULTRA lazy reporting!) served as the MC. Memorable phrases from her: "If you don't vote, don't come crying to me later when I see you in the hallways because if the cost of tuition and books gets too high and you start hollerin' and screamin', I'm gonna say, "Why didn't you vote?" "You should have voted!" Indeed, young lady. Well said. I hope they listened.

There were the obligatory speeches from Sacramento City Councilman Kevin McCarty and ex-Phoenix Suns basketball star, Kevin Johnson, who said that despite what the Sacramento Bee reported, he has NOT said that he is running for Mayor of Sacramento. Translation: He has some seed money for a campaign, and he has his feelers out for more. I would have never written something like that back in the day because it's not a concrete fact, but it's part of that read-between-the-lines-and-politicians-words instinct that most reporters develop after a few years. After all the words and cheering for Brother Barack, the young Ms. MC had this to say: "Vote for Barack Obama, the first president to bring fried chicken to the White House!"

Oh, God. Why? Why, for the love of the Lord Almighty did she have to say that????? I know she is a very young African American woman who was probably unaware of the negative stereotyping involved with that statement. Not only that, it's not true. Jimmy Carter is from Plains, Georgia. I feel 99.9% certain that he had some fried chicken when he was in office. And Barack may be a brother, but that doesn't mean he's grown up with fried chicken. Let's stop the mad assumptions, please!

I was so upset that I called and left a message on my friend Cindy's cell phone about the comment. She called me back, laughing. She called her friend Michael, who also laughed. But then he stopped and said, "That's not true! Bill Clinton ate fried chicken with greens and cornbread when he was in the White House!" See there? Folks out here in California FORGET that in the South, white folks and black folks eat the same food. This is an easily proved fact. Just ask a Southerner. It's not about being black or white; it's about being Southern. During the "Cornbread Wars: Jiffy vs. homemade" on the discussion group rec.soc.culture.african-american back in the mid-90s, a white guy from Tennesee made all of our jaws drop with a cracklin' corn bread recipe that had been in his family for 200 years! With homemade, skillet-fried cracklins! Nobody fries cracklins anymore, not even my parents! So lets' just dispense with the so-called black culture references. Our slave ancestors developed Southern cooking, and everyone ate their culinary creations, black and white folks.

An aside: why is it that we, meaning Americans, can find unity in food and music, but little else? What's that about?

More snippets from the rally: A City College instructor who looked like he is somewhere in his late 50s or early 60s stood up to say that he changed his voter registration as a life long Republican to "declined to state" so that he could vote for Obama in the California primary. "It's time for a change," he said.

Another woman, who later told me about her trip to South Carolina to volunteer for the Obama campaign, said that she was originally in the Clinton camp because she felt loyal to Bill. But she liked the speeches Obama has given, which led to her looking up his web site. She has been an avid Obama supporter ever since, even though she is an insulin dependent diabetic, had a knee replacement due to arthritis, and is presently out of work. She still flew to South Carolina courtesy of her ex-husband, and stayed there for ten days while primaries were going on. "I just love the energy Obama brings to the campaign; it's amazing!" She was radiating a warm golden glow herself as she talked about her experience. I had to fight the impulse to ask her if she got the Holy Ghost while she was there. I'm bad. I know it.

Parting quote: A bulletin board in the quad area on campus advertised for a panel discussion/forum entitled: "The 2008 Presidential Campaign: Does Race or Gender Matter?"

Good question for everyone in America.
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