Why I’m voting for Senator Barack Obama

February 11, 2008

There are several reasons why I am voting for Senator Barack Obama. I could go into the whole thing of being “inspired,” how he “represents change,” and how he “speaks to me.” I will get to those things later. Somehow, according to my wife, the media focuses on all of these attributes without mentioning the fact that he actually has positions on relevant issues so I will start there. It is necessary to begin with the issues because Senator Obama is more than just a suit with a Harvard degree.

I am not going to go into the issue of his anti-war stance because that has been hammered into the ground. The first issue I will look at is prison reform. Senator Obama helped implement legislation in Illinois that calls for videotaped interrogations. As someone who has been active in reforming the prison industrial complex, this is of extreme importance. Too many lives have been lost to extreme incarceration sentences, life imprisonment, or even death row for crimes not committed. It is also important to note that under Bill Clinton’s “3 Strikes and You’re Out” legislation, which I gathered research for as an intern with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office in high school, over a million Black youth went into the criminal justice system with little to no reform attempts made.

The second issue of importance is the economy and health insurance. As Senator Obama clearly put it: “If you work in this country, you should not be poor.” His idea to put forth tax cuts for the middle class is indeed necessary. I also agree with his need to extend the Family and Medical Leave Act. So many of us in the country are one paycheck or one medical injury away from financial ruin and expanding this act and others could help fix that. I also believe in his affordable and portable healthcare plan.

The biggest issue for me, however, is education. Today I heard an excerpt from a speech that was the impetus for me writing this article. He stated that children should not just be measured by test scores. He asserted that children must not only excel academically, but also in music, arts, and poetry. As a teacher and performer, I visit schools all across this country and see the exact opposite happening. States like California are building more prisons than universities. I visit middle schools on the east coast that have no foreign language, music, or art programs, yet they are competing with $30,000 a year schools where students are learning foreign languages in preschool. My doctoral dissertation deals with the arts as a tool for social change so you can see why this excites me. I have yet to hear a candidate address this issue so specifically.

Now that all that official stuff is out of the way, I will end this article endorsing Sen. Obama on a very personal note. As a Black man in America, I was very fortunate to not only grow up with a strong father; I also had 3 older brothers who protected me from inner-city streets. The problem that myself and many of my black male peers had is that growing up, we had no black national male figures who were 15-20 years older than us that we could look up to that were not athletes, actors, or musicians. Either we looked up to people like Reverend Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Bill Cosby, and President Mandela (role models on many issues for us), or we aspired to be like slain greats such as Malcolm X, Dr. King, and Steve Biko. Outside of that, it was be “like Mike”—Tyson, Jordan, Jackson, etc. There was a generation of visible national Black male leadership that my generation was not privileged to witness.

In 2007 and 2008, this has changed significantly. I now see Black males under 50 on the national political scale from Michael Baisden and Roland Martin to Tavis Smiley and of course Sen. Obama and it feels great! Young Black males in their teens have guys like Cousin Jeff and Kevin Powell to aspire to emulate. When I see young Black males say that they want to grow up and be like Sen. Obama and not 50 Cent, for example, that means something to many of us, particularly those of us who do/did not have strong Black males in the home to look up to.

So there you have it. Those are my personal and professional reasons as to why I support Sen. Obama. I encourage all of you reading this to dig deep into the personal and political reasons for the candidates and choose whoever speaks to you on the level Sen. Obama speaks to me and vote for that person. Do not get caught up in legacies, fear tactics, and experience. I mean truthfully, Sen. Obama has more legislative experience than Sen. Clinton but nobody mentions that. Go for your candidate on the issues and then who moves you. I am moved by Senator Barack Obama.

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