9218 South Drexel – Girl of the Southside


WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20:  President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk in the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the US.  (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – JANUARY 20: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama walk in the Inaugural Parade on January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected President of the US. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

9218 South Drexel. (unedited. free write.)

I can’t tell you the last time I have set foot on South Drexel Avenue.  I don’t even remember much of what the house looked like. I vaguely remember a porch, the couches, the kitchen, a certain smell, and some … well, maybe, all of the rooms. My memory of it is muddled by age, the forgiving grace of forgetting, and all the lives I’ve lived before.

But desipite all this Despite the many, many homes in which I have lived and loved, 9218 S Drexel Ave, Chicago, IL 60619 is in my blood.

It is the first place I ever called home. It is the place where Kafui, Edna, Shadrach, and Teddy Amegashie brought home a newborn baby and raised their first hope-filled American.

Me.

Just another Girl of the Southside of Chicago.

9218 South Drexel is the place that I have my earliest memories of love, pain, laughter, sorrow, joy, and, well… Life.  Just as loudly and proudly as Accra, Keta, Bolingbrook, Columbia, Rogers Park,  Albany Park, West Ridge, and now super suburban Plainfield lives within me… The southside of Chicago beats within my veins and will remain entwined in my life.

***

When I was 17, I was a girl of burbs, the president of my senior high school class, and I wanted to be the President of the World. Well, obviously not the world but I wanted to be the President of the United States of America… and right or wrong, in way too many ways, the President of the United States and the President of the World are kind of the same thing.

Today, I’m 37 and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that both 17 and 37 year old Senam got some sense about themselves and chose better for us… Watching these past eight years with Barack, and this 2016 election cycle with Hilary has taught me that politics is nothing but a dirty, dirty game and I just don’t want to play.

I could I but I won’t.

***

On the night that Barack Obama, was elected President of the United States, I was on the 2nd floor of a six- flat on Hoyne Ave in Chicago, IL. I was married, 29 years old and sitting in my bed wearing nothing but a pair of mesh post pregnancy underwear uncomfortably stuffed with one of those horribly uncomfortable after birth pads. I was naked from the waist up trying my very damnedest to exclusively breastfeed two little brown babies that had been born a mere 6 days before. I was exhausted, discouraged, delirious, incredulous, broken, and 100% convinced that he would NOT win.

When it came across the screen, I wasn’t paying attention. I was likely preoccupied with trying to cross-cradle or football hold one twin or the other into a good latch, while trying to keep track of which feeding had happened to whom, and who would need which set of jaundice lights when, and doing whatever I could to convince my 2 year old that her twin brothers were not her twin toys… So I missed the first few seconds it was on the screen.  But then I felt a slap on my arm, I looked up to see my husband both gawking and pointing at our television screen.

I looked at the screen and I slapped his arm right back. 

What was happening? He won? Wait? He won? He WON?

He Won.

He did.

I cried like my babies that night. Tears full of postpartum hormones, exhaustion, joy, possibility, fear, and mostly sheer disbelief.

My president was Black and his wife was, too.

Unbelievable.

***

I love amazing people. People who defy the odds, the world, their own limitations, and turn their lives into something spectacular.

Muhammad Ali.

Maya Angelou.

Oprah Winfrey.

Barack Obama.

And most recently. Girl of the southside.

Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama.

I want to write something that will encapsulate what Michelle Obama means to me but I could write and write and write again and I will never ever be able to give her what is due. And while I don’t know if it fits what I have been able to write today. The thing I want to say to you about the thing about Michelle is…

With the unparalleled levels of intellect, excellence, grace and flawless victory she injected into her every move at the White House, we all now know that Michelle Obama would and could be the most amazing President of the United States of America.

She could but she won’t.

Because as every girl of the southside is fighting so fiercely to do… Michelle Obama fought to give herself a wealth of options….so she could choose what was best for herself.

Luckily for Barack and for all of us, that meant this amazing person chose to spend 8 years of her life at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave trying to become the most spectacular First Lady that is, was, and ever will be.

She did.

Unbelievable.

***

Tonight is exactly 2998 days from the night that Barack Obama was elected. And tonight is the last night that Barack Obama will be the President of the United States of America.  And tonight is the last night that Michelle Obama will be the First Lady of Our World.

Tonight, Those twin babies are 8 and that 2-year-old is 10.

Tonight, in about 30 or so minutes all three of them will come bounding back in from a visit from my ex-husband’s house back to my house in Plainfield.

Tonight, 17-year-old Senam, 29-year-old Senam, and 37-year-old Senam, are sitting on a bed typing these words in much better underwear, smack dab in the middle of a life that I was 100% convinced that I could NOT win …

But if you recall… one of the women I am is a girl from the southside… The past 8 years of my life, whether I knew it or not, consciously or subconsciously, have been about me making the good and bad choices that are all leading me towards the most spectacular me, I can be.  One of me , would always find what I needed to propel all me to continue to fight fiercely for the options, I wanted and needed so I could win my life.Because even on days when all the women in me were exhausted, discouraged, delirious, incredulous and broken… On days when life would lay me low, one of us would manage to remind me that if I wanted to… I could always choose to go high.

Because even on days when all the women in me were exhausted, discouraged, delirious, incredulous and broken… On days when life would lay me low, one of us would manage to remind me that if I wanted to… I could always choose to go high.

I did.

Unbelievable.

***

Tomorrow, nothing and everything changes.

Likely, tomorrow me, you, and every man, woman, frog or dog who knows what we are up against…is going feel, exhausted, delirious, incredulous, broken, and 100% convinced that we will NOT win.

But then the day after that….  the sun will rise and all of the hope-filled Americans that are somewhere within us all, will also rise and be fired up and ready to go.

Again.

And then we will choose to get back into the fierce fight for the most spectacular lives we can live…. and the most spectacular America we can create.

We will not be afraid. We will be focused. We will be determined. We will be hopeful. We will be empowered.

Eventually, we will win. I don’t know how. And I don’t know when, but I do know that it will be…

Unbelievable.

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