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The Obama View from London

I was an English girl in New York on Nov. 4. And just like millions of other Americans I cried.
I’d been in NYC for 24 hours, and from the moment I landed at JFK I could feel the energy. It was something I’d never experienced before. The idea of hope. I mean like a whole nation of people with hope and change on their minds, and in their hearts. As a black chick from England, it’s a situation that’s alien to me.
I was sat in a bar with some of the Parlour Fam last night, and the energy was surreal. The moment the announcement was made was something that I’ll never forget. I cried… Yes because it’s an amazing moment in history, but also because my own country is so far behind. And it’s strange, until that moment I’d never realized that so whole-heartedly before.

The significance of this moment in history goes far far beyond the US. For Americans it represents a giant leap forward from the days of slavery. But for other black folk in other countries, it represents hope on a different, bigger scale. Last night my phone was ringing off the hook. People at home had stayed up until 5am (UK time) to wait for the result, and wanted to find out what things were like in NYC (I’m gonna have a huge cellphone bill when I get back).

People have been emailing me for the last two days, just to find out what it was like to be in the middle of history in the making. They’ve told me stories of commuters smiling and talking on the London subway (which never happens. Cardinal rule is you never talk to anyone first thing in the morning). Morning assemblies in schools have all involved Obama. Club nights this weekend are all dedicated to him. Just about every paper in the world has him on the front page.

You cannot begin to fathom the importance this has elsewhere.

Black English soccer stars still have to deal with banana skins being thrown at them on pitches in Eastern Europe. The world motor racing champion (it’s a sport that’s HUGE everywhere else but North America) is a young black guy from England called Lewis Hamilton: at pre-season tests in Barcelona earlier this year, he was abused by a group of Spanish fans with blacked-up faces and wigs. I’ve had racist white viewers call my studio, I’m a television reporter, and complain when I’ve been reading the news in the UK.

So Europe is still so far behind. I don’t think I’ll ever see a black UK Prime Minister in my lifetime. As an English girl in New York, last night showed me how far my country still has to go. And how long and hard the fight is going to be. But seeing what the results from the struggle has renewed my hope.

—Miss London

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