Wednesday, November 05, 2008

story time!

a lot of people are buzzing about whether they ever thought they would see a black president elected during their lifetime. to be honest, the campaign season dragged on for so long, i can't remember what i thought before it began anymore. but i do have a story (cue wavy flashback lines)

the year was 1998. i lived in hyde park, a neighborhood in the predominantly black south side of chicago. hyde park was a strange neighborhood. it included the university of chicago, and thus a lot of undergrads, graduate students and professors who were from all over the place. as i just mentioned, hyde park was also one of the predominantly black southside neighborhoods. but unlike some of those other neighborhoods, hyde park was not a slum. and thus it attracted a lot of chicago's black professionals. hyde park, or at least northern hyde park and kenwood (the neighborhood immediately to the north) was also nation of islam central. louis farrakhan was one of my neighbors (if 8 blocks or so away still counts as being a neighbor) as was mohammed ali.

hyde park was one of a few really mixed race neighborhoods in chicago. but there was some segregation within the neighborhood. some businesses were only frequented by "university people" and others by "neighborhood (i.e. black) people." there were also some businesses that both went to. but a lot fell into one category or another.

the neighborhood had a single movie theater. it varied a little depending on what films were playing there, but most of the time the theater catered to the neighborhood people. the university had its own film series for students and professors whereas the movie theater drew south siders from a lot of the surrounding black neighborhoods. but that didn't mean that we never went to the local movie theater. it wasn't that unusual for mrs. noz and i to go.

we saw deep impact in that theater. it was a mostly forgettable film, taking place in the near future where the world is faced with a meteor impact that threatens the extinction of the human race. but i do remember this: the president of the united states was played by morgan freeman. when freeman first came on screen, a kid's voice from somewhere in the almost all black audience said very loudly "the president is a black man!" then the audience laughed. i couldn't decide if the audience was laughing at the fact that the kid took notice of the race of the president, or at the absurdity of the idea that the president would ever actually be black. i'm still not sure which one it was today.