Sunday, March 09, 2008

Meeting Barack Obama and other recollections from Houston, TX

My friends from United for Obama were kind enough to get me to Texas, for the first time in years, to campaign for Barack Obama. It was an exciting whirlwind of activity which still seems like a blur: I hadn't gotten out of the airport when we hooked up with Obama volunteers coming from all over the country, ( one of them, Rob, gave us tons of cool Obama buttons and t-shirts that even the rental car guy wanted to wear... we gave him some) I met with Senator Cedillo and the people of the HQ, some of which knew me from the Si Se Puede Cambiar video. There was the canvassing and precinct-walking : we were welcomed by some people but some tall white guy walking his dogs in a very affluent neighborhood warned us that "people 'round here don't like Obama, they got shotguns and will shoot you". HE actually said that, no Kidding. We kept going and laughed it off, sure the guy was a strong conservative doing his bit to try to derail the huge, record-breaking democratic turnouts, which was probably the case, but later on the car radio we heard a report of someone actually getting shot for walking through somebody's lawn while the shooter was talking to 911. Crazy. I also did some press, gave interviews, performed live, made some great new friends. Will post links later on. We also got some good footage but haven't uploaded it yet as Eric and Annabel are in Japan, and I'm just trying to catch up here in LA.

I have to say one of my fondest memories from this trip was seeing my brother who is thirteen but since last I saw him has grown from a kid to a deep-voiced , sweet-natured young man! He knew the lyrics to my song better than I did. It was a bit embarrassing that I wrote the song, granted very recently, but quite a few people know the lyrics already and I still rely on the the printed words every now and then. My little brother (or not so little anymore) joined me for a whole day, always helpful , and got a glimpse of this flurry of grassroots activity in what will no doubt be remembered as a historic time in US politics.

I got to see my dad and his wife but unfortunately didn't have time to see more of my extended family or friends. However it was also great to connect with strangers on the street for a common cause, the ideals and dreams that unite us deep down. It was specially touching to be greeted so warmly by the Obama supporters who recognized me on the street as the guy from the video, I have this particular woman in my mind right now as I type this, a large African-American woman who was driving out of a parking lot when she saw me from the window and slammed on the breaks. Screaming to her friend, she got off the car which was now blocking the entrance to the lot, rushed up to me and gave me one big, long hug, "You brought tears to my eyes" she kept repeating, she was so excited, her friend too, I was speechless. It is very humbling to think that whatever you are feeling at any given point in time, whatever you're trying to express, that there are so many people in the world feeling the exact same way, that we're all connected, and all we have to do is to discover that thread to find each other again. This song has been such thread for me.

Another great connection where the two great guys who interviewed me for the Brazilian magazine Veja, who I'd keep meeting over and over again on the campaign trail and kindly gave me a ride when Eric took off with the car to help out in another district in dire need of Obama visibility. Hanging out with Eric and Annabel was a treat as was meeting their friend Duarte and fellow volunteers Quan, Gerry, K.S. and Joanne.

I also did a live translation of Barack Obama's touching, rousing speech when we joined him at the George Brown Convention Center and we'll post some video from that at some point. Another memory that stands out is my brief interaction with Barack Obama after the event, with the enthusiastic crowd surrounding us, this was truly the eye of the hurricane but these things stand out for whatever reason: the genuine sense of honesty and down-to-earth recognition in his gaze,( he struck me as such real, genuine individual). Also his uncannily soft, skinny hands. You'd think they would've hardened by so much contact with his followers. The apparent ease of pronunciation of the few words Obama spoke in Spanish, and most of all, his Chanting "Sí, se Puede" with me as cameras flashed (except ours, Eric and company where still at the opposite end of the stage!), Anyway, now I have a better grasp of the man, not only the ideas that moved me into action, but also great attitude and energy of the man in person.
Quite a trip indeed.

"Marching into the Light" by Andres Useche