Since I last wrote, my time in D. C. seems more eventful than what I thought it could possibly be. I have been tired often, however, it is actually really enjoyable to stay on my feet! As I said in my last post, my birthday passed and one of my best friends spent the week with me, which was such a nice reminder of home without actually having to go home. We spent a lot of time at the monuments and memorials, but our favorite was our visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. It was a special day as it was the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March, so when we made it to the memorial, we met plenty of people from around the country who came to celebrate including some of my friends from Berkeley! The MLK memorial is beautiful. My favorite part are the engraved quotes from Dr. King…definitely words that will sit with me. I also got to finally visit the National Zoo as both of us love animals. In fact, we went there three times in her short stay!
In addition, one of the most memorable moments of my time here happened just two weeks ago when I went to the Democratic Women Forum hosted by the Democratic National Committee! Although I wouldn’t consider myself to be very political, my internship as well as events such a this have made me a lot more aware of the significance of my civic engagement. It is imperative to me that I bring that knowledge back home because our civil right to vote is perhaps one of the greatest rights, one of the most impactful means to have our voice heard in the government. How sad is it that so many Americans, specifically my generation, are becoming so disengaged from the political process. But back to my experience! On the first day of the conference, I had the opportunity to see the mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, and also the mayor of the district, Muriel Bowser, speak. This was very inspirational for me, as women compose a small percentage of political power in the American government and African-American women an even smaller number.
The next day, I got to see people that I recently could only access via television. They included, Lincoln Chafee, Bernie Sanders, Nina Turner (possibly the best speaker I have ever had the blessing to hear, she should run for President), Martin O’Malley, Hillary Clinton, and the best yet, President Barack Obama. My goal for this whole experience was to see him at least once (I’m going to visit the White House next weekend, and it would be awesome if I could catch a glimpse of him) and here he stood in front of me! To witness President Obama in person was similar to the Drake concert I recently went to- he’s like a rapstar. Granted, he is the first African American President of the United States, making history, but to hear the screams in the room, see the awe in people’s eyes, and the way I too could not control my excitement, speaks volumes to the powerful presence of this man, to the celebrity status of his presidency that I don’t think many would feel towards most political leaders.
Afterwards, he stepped down from the podium, started walking along the barrier, and shaking hands. I told myself, ‘I’m not going to run up there like a crazy person, hearing him speak was enough for me’…but I couldn’t contain myself and the realization that this may never happen again, pushed me forward. I pushed past people hastily and attempted to catch up with him, but it seemed as if he was floating farther and farther away. I had to change my strategy. So, I ran to the other end of the room where he would finish his parade and I could wait for the moment that he would finally reach us. As he got closer, a big smile spread across my face… here was President Barack Obama, literally standing right in front of my face- I could hug the man if I wanted to, I would not even have to extend my arm if I wanted to touch him because he was actually right in front of me. I screamed, “President Obama, please shake my hand!” and with a big smile across his face, and his presidential demeanor, he held my hand for about five seconds, which were, hands down, the best seconds of my entire time here. I was shaking as I walked away from the stage, looking at my hand in awe, contemplating if I should ever wash it… I had to take a taxi home because I felt like I might pass out from my giddiness. It was a brilliant moment and it is definitely a reassurance to follow your gut- I am so happy that something in me pushed me forward and did not let me settle for just a speech.
In addition, the UCDC program has weekly Monday night forums where we get to hear some amazing speakers over dinner. Last week, the forum was hosted at the Supreme Court with Justice Elena Kagan as our guest speaker, which was pretty cool. The Supreme Court is very aesthetically pleasing and as I sat in the row where hopeful candidates for Justice nominations watch cases be argued, I couldn’t help but imagine myself one day serving as a Justice.
Lastly, I just returned from an amazing weekend in New York, which is the place of my dreams. Since I was a child, I have only seen New York in my imagination, a fantastical place where I would be able to make a name for myself, particularly in the modeling world. So, you can only imagine how surreal it was for me to actually be there-unbelievable. What was also really special about the weekend out there was that it was Halloween weekend and some of my good friends from Berkeley met my roommate and me out there to celebrate! We spent the first night getting acquainted with Times Square, which is actually so much brighter than I ever thought it was and also plastered with so many ads. Literally, everywhere was dark in comparison, but I loved it. It is also really true, the City never sleeps. We were out until about five am and people were still walking the streets as if it was 7 pm.
On Halloween day, we went to brunch at this bomb place called Root & Bone (I recommend it if you’re into chicken waffle sandwiches, which sounds crazy, but I swear this was a tasty combination!) and afterwards we went to 30 Rockefeller Plaza. My roommate loves the show 30 Rock and NBC so this was her dream come true- for me, any attraction in New York is joyous. We spent hours in the gift shop and, ultimately, decided to do a tour of the Top of the Rock, where we were able to see the skyline of the city, which was simply an experience I will never forget. For nighttime festivities, my friends and I hit the Manhattan night scene. I can thoroughly say that I enjoyed myself, my company, and my short trip! We had to catch our bus at 8:30 am the next morning, however, I plan to return for Thanksgiving!
Stay tuned for this last month because I have a lot more planned!
Ozi Emeziem is a senior at UC Berkeley, studying comparative literature and ethnic studies. She is currently interning with the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.