Gail Turner Brown is a Grassroots Correspondent for HuffPost's OffTheBus.
This has been an amazing journey and to say people are excited is a huge understatement.
I spent my last weekend canvassing in the swing state of Virginia as well as phonebanking
in the Obama office in Largo, Maryland.
Saturday morning was a beautiful fall day. The warm, crisp fall air gave you a sense of change
and optimism. The remaining leaves were still bursting with colors of gold and amber, reflecting
the knowledge of transition in an atmosphere of cautious glee.
As I arrived to the Obama campaign office in MD, the office was swamped with excitement.
There were volunteers everywhere. Some were preparing to mann the phone banks and others
were organizing to disperse throughout VA.
At one point the office manager announced the office was full for phone banking and the remaining volunteers needed to go across the street to another office emphasizing the enthusiasm of the many volunteers there willing to do whatever was necessary to get Barack Obama elected.
I was among those who were canvassing. Once my destination was assigned I was promptly
teamed up with two other sisters Joyce and Pamela who were driving. We gathered our materials
and were off on our road trip.
We all introduced ourselves and proceeded on our hour long journey. We chatted about the
election, the potential, the possibilities and the historical nature of this critical election. Since we
were all African American, we were seeing this year's election through a different lens. This election holds a myriad of emotions for us. From pride, to accomplishment, to fear, anxiety and anxiousness.
We talked about how this election has affected and consumed our lives. We laughed about neglecting our families and household duties even our entertainment. We acknowledge that simple pleasures of watching our favorite past times such as old movies, listening to music and reading had morphed in to scouring the internet for political websites, blogs and cable news stations. MSNBC, CNN and C-SPAN have replaced TCM and Old School R&B music stations.
As we made our way down the highway and located the Virginia campaign office once again we were greeted by a group of excited volunteers. They had come from all over the area. The office manager lived in a suburb of Maryland called Greenbelt. Some had come from DC and others lived in Virginia. All of us were waiting to get assigned territories and last minute training before being dispersed.
You felt as though you were in the military with its precision and organized strategies. The ground troops gathered outside to receive their mission and tactics as to what our target was, what to say and how to say it. They had everything laid out so proficiently, it was no wonder we were winning in the ground game.
The other thing that struck me was how the people were divided up. They wanted you in groups of two or more so we ensured that anyone traveling alone was paired up with someone. Also there was a group called Latinos for Obama. Since our areas consisted of a large Hispanic community, they made sure that group tackled the specific target to take advantage of the communication challenge.
So with assignments in hand, snacks packed for nourishment (plenty of Halloween candy and water) and the mission at hand, off we went. We were a little nervous since we were in foreign territory. We had heard a lot about how some of the McCain supporters had reacted to Obama supporters in a negative manner. And not being too sure how we would be greeted considering we were all African Americans, we proceeded with caution but resolve.
Luckily I had been canvassing in VA territory before, so I took the lead in approaching the homeowners, we divided the other duties of logging results and tracing the walking map between the other two.
As we approached home after home, most were out enjoying the beautiful fall day, so we could only leave door hangers. For those we found at home, we were greeted as "liberators." One guy told us he had already voted and was excited -- we got him to commit to volunteer at the campaign office. Another young woman in her mid-30s was so emotional. She began to talk to us about how excited she was and the more she talked she began to cry. She was so funny as well as touching. She epitomized the overall feeling people in this country are having and craving. "I can't wait for November 4th," she said. "I can't wait for Barack Obama to become President. I am ready for things to change."
At another home, the gentlemen we asked for was not at home, however the lady of the house, an attractive young Hispanic woman, asked what we needed. We told her we were with the Obama campaign and wanted to know if she aware of her husband's decision. She said she was 99.9 percent sure he had voted for Obama and said, "if he didn't I'll kill him." We all laughed and suggested she not go that far, but we appreciated her dedication.
As we asked for directions from two middle aged ladies we saw in a parking lot, they asked what we were doing. After we told them they indicated how much they hoped Obama would be elected. They said that Bush had run this country into the ground and they did not like McCain. One lady, the older of the two said "I can't stand that Palin woman." "She makes me sick," she said as she squished up her face. She was visually disgusted with the negative campaigning that was being done. She also expressed concern for the potential of violence if something were to happen to Obama. She was probably in her 60's and white. She said "if they do something to him, I feel very scared for your people." We acknowledged her concern and reassured her that he had tons of security and his safety was secured.
And on and on it went throughout the day. We finally finished our list, tallied up our log and took it back to the campaign office. Before heading back to Maryland, I spoke at length to a very attractive Hispanic volunteer who was stacking campaign materials. I asked her why was she supporting Obama and what was her motivation to volunteer.
She said, there were so many reasons she did not know where to begin. From the unfounded war and occupation of Iraq, the division of the country to immigration issues. She felt that Obama had inspired her and so many others. She felt that he had the ability more than any one else to heal our reputation around the world. She said because of his bi-racial heritage
he had the ability to see things from both sides and a broader world view which enabled him to help bring the country together as well as the world.
We said goodbye to everyone and headed back. We were satisfied with our accomplishment of getting through our list and felt the satisfaction of participating in the effort to help get out the vote. After they dropped me off at the MD campaign office, I had to wait for my son to pick me up So I volunteered to do some phone banking while I waited.
Once again most people were not at home. It was about 8:00pm Saturday night. I finally spoke with one woman in swing state of Ohio. She was quite apathetic and a little discouraged. She told me she was going to sit this election out this year. I talked to her about the importance of her vote and for her voice to be heard. As she continued to lay out her reasons for not
voting she came up with excuse after excuse. "I don't agree with everything he says" -- referring to Obama -- "but I know how important this election is." "I'll have to pray on it," she said. I shared with her my reasons for doing this as being for once having someone to vote for and not just vote against. Plus I told her too many people died to give me this voice. I needed to do this for my grandparents who did not have this opportunity and who took a huge amount of crap to get basic rights.
I also suggested if she did not want to do this for herself, then she needed to do this for her children and those coming behind her. As our conversation continued, she reiterated she knew her mindset was not the right way to think and she just didn't know what she was going to do.
However, she repeated how grateful she was for me calling her and talking to her.
My conclusion from this weekend was people are hungry for change. There are really good people out here from all walks of life, every nationality and ethnic background. All ages, both male and female. However, some feel shafted for so long ti is difficult for them to believe one more time. As a result, this fight is not over because change has never come easy. So we have to continue to talk and connect with people. We need to consistently remind some of what is possible if we not only pray but act.
I also now know what it is like to be a "community organizer" and what it means when a small group of people get together with a common purpose and a lot of passion. Improbable things can be achieved. I made a lot of friends during my journey some of whom I will continue
to connect with after the election is over.
People have far more in common than we have differences and it really felt good to be part of a movement for change.