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African Writing Archives


Catherine Mark-Beasant



Catherine Mark-Beasant

Mark-Beasant was born of Nigerian parentage, raised in the Middle East, and educated in the US and UK. A writer of prose and poetry, she is currently working on an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Metropolitan University. She lives in the UK and works full-time as a secondary school teacher in Birmingham.


Obama's Odyssey

Where were you when history was unfolding on the shores of America on the 4th of November 2008? On the other side of the Atlantic (here in the UK), I chose to watch on the BBC, minute-by-minute, the arrival of a new chapter in America’s history books. After an intense night, at around 4 am, the verdict was given. The American people (and indeed, the world) were rewarded for their desire for change and hope for a new and better future. The first black man, an African-American, was elected as president of this century’s leading superpower. Barak Obama has risen from obscurity to the global stage as the leader of the Western (free and democratic) world.

It was a momentous victory that inspired pride and vision. Truly, it is rare occasions like these, which cause an outpouring of cliché and commentary. The media, minions, and millions across the globe were revelling in rhetoric: ‘dreams can come true’, ‘miracles do happen’, ‘fiction has become fact’, ‘the American dream concept (that long-held fantasy) has proved to be a reality’, and on and on.

The cliché that continues to come from me in discussions with family, friends, colleagues, and even strangers, is: ‘I never thought I would live to see the day when a black man became president of America’. To be perfectly honest, I never perceived it, nor conceived it in the realm of my imagination. Not surprising, as I was raised in an era blighted by subtle and overt racial prejudices, encountered during my upbringing and schooling years in the Middle East, US and UK.

In the main, for most of my thirty-seven years, I have been surrounded by the white populace (both in terms of my schooling and work settings). It is these white-dominated environments that have been my daily truth, and fed my aspirations as a young black woman. Therefore, it never crossed my mind to dream or imagine that such an event could occur in this century, let alone in this decade.

For many black people born before the 80’s (I speak from my experiences), the truth of the plight of the black man globally, both in the first and third worlds, caused many to stop believing in the dream that one day a black man would ever have the ‘top job’. For most of the black masses in the West, the only grass-roots dream available to them is to: ‘survive life, have a good job, and raise a family’; in the developing nations, this dream is further muted.

Decades of the deflowering of the black man has meant that the drive to dream for, and achieve the impossible has remained stifled, and a daily battle. Of course, countless many have continued the struggle in their various corners of the earth, be it as an activist in Australia, a teacher in England, a minister in South Africa, or a senator in America. Definitely, the face of the struggle that I talk about, is evolving: from slavery; to the right to vote; to equal rights at work; to what I would call, an eradication of the racist DNA that is endemic to the American gene pool (which of course, equally affects many other Western nations in a similar fashion).

In light of this pervasive DNA, we cannot talk about an ‘ultimate victory’ for the black man at the entrance of President-elect Obama. However, what we can take away from this incredibly symbolic outcome is a shift in humankind that is moving from a place of discord and polarisation amongst racial communities, towards one of working towards greater unity and understanding. It is significant that Obama arrives at a pivotal moment in our times, to act as a key to bridging the divide between black and white, past and present, and play a vital role in moving people forward towards a post-racial American world.

In my time, I have witnessed three life-changing events of this magnitude, both incredible and incredulous: Nelson Mandela’s release and presidency in South Africa, the 9/11 bomb attacks, and now the election of the 1st black president of the United States. As an African and as a Westerner, I am proud to have played my part in the role of a witness to this historic event. Sure this is only the beginning, and the task that lies ahead for Obama is monumental in terms of rebuilding the wasteland that has been created by the Bush-Cheney years – particularly, in terms of the global economy, and international policy.

In addition to this, he will encounter a lot of opposition from his critics (let us not forget that he won by only a slight majority, in terms of the popular vote), suffice to say that as he enters his term of office in the White House, he will in fact be entering a ‘lion’s den’ where many will seek to devour him. As a black man, he will have to work twice as hard as any of the 43 white presidents that have gone before him – to prove his promise of bipartisan and pragmatic leadership to the American people, and the world. It is unlikely that a term of four years will be sufficient to re-establish a paradise that recaptures the essence of the American Dream.

However, in as much as, Obama faces a colossal task ahead, it is important not to minimize the symbolic victory that has been achieved by Obama because he has opened up the gates for people from every corner of the pigmentation spectrum, to make a bid not only for this ‘top job’ of presidency, but for top jobs in every aspect of industry and society. He has given people of colour (ethnic minorities) permission to dream again. Thus, his campaign manifesto ‘yes, we can’ has indeed raised the benchmark across the world!


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