What can I tell you about Obama’s sister? Dr. Maya Soetoro Ng is freaking fabulous.
On Saturday June 21st, 2008, I had the unique pleasure of meeting Barack Obama’s (half) sister. The event was hosted by the office of Senator Gloria Romero, co-chair to Obama’s Latino Outreach. Senator Romero is hella cool, I like her, but OMG, I have to be honest, location… dreadful, not because I don’t like the restaurant “Hecho en Mexico” in El Sereno, I like the restaurant, great food, great ambiance, but they have no air conditioning; and this happened to be on one of L.A’s hottest days. I swear it must have been 110degrees (I’m melting!). Everyone was sweating on each other, and it was humid and just plain gross. I have come to realize the summer is no longer my favorite season. Global Warming does not sit well with me.
I digress… Dr. Maya is incredible. She spoke about her mother and her Indonesian father moving to Indonesia, where she was born. Obama was just a small boy and learned to live amongst the people of Indonesia and speak their language. She told stories of growing up, how Obama, or “Barry” as he was called, looked out for her and made friends where ever he went. Some years later, the family moved back to Hawaii and she told stories of how Obama took her to colleges while she was in High School so that she knew the choices available to her, he would also give her advise on boys and make judgment calls on her choice in boyfriends, which she admitted with a laugh, he was right on most of the bad ones. That brought lots of chuckles from the audience.
She talked about Barack’s female influences, having had such a wonderful and passionate mother, a grandmother who cared deeply for women’s causes, having worked in a factory during WWII, the influence of being married to such a strong African American woman who cares deeply for education and human rights, and off course, the influence of his two beautiful daughters. She said it was no wonder that Obama is a feminist, having been surrounded by strong women all his life, it has shaped and molded his way of thinking.
She said, “Barack is a feminist, I say that, I mentain that, and so any of you who may be worried at all about whether he is going to do the right thing, you just remember that this is the man, who helped women opened up small businesses… he increased the earned income tax credit which helped primarily female en led households, he has been a supporter of engaged and preventative health measures for women, like getting mammograms, and Johanna’s law, which is for women with ovarian cancer, which is what our mother died of at age 52”
Through a critical approach to this, I was reminded of feminist scholar, bell hooks, who wrote, “feminism is for everyone…[it is a] movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation and oppression”
So yes, even men can be feminist if they believe in these ideals, and Barack Obama is one of these men.
Check out this video I took:
“He wants every woman to feel empowered, and to create a trully inclusive democracy, a trully representative democracy and do a great deal for the Latino community… this is a man that by virtue of really benevolent work in healthcare, through advocacy, and through a fair and just serious of immigration reform is going to represent our communities broadly”
Dr. Maya also spoke about Cesar Chavez being made into a National Holiday and how her brother has publicly announced his support for this movement. I hope the country follows suit and acknowledges the importance of the work of the UFW. The pin she is wearing in the pic is in support of this movement and was given to her at this event.
I learned that Dr. Maya is a High School teacher and a college professor in the evenings at University of Hawaii. Hearing her speak was like listening to a story being told. Like I was in kindergarten and couldn’t wait to see how the story turned out. I enjoyed listening to her compare their humble apartment in Hawaii to the Bush estate as she so pointed out the immense differences in Obama’s upbringing and the lifestyles of those currently in power. It was intense and extremely insightful.
Much has been said about Obama’s lack of Latino outreach, I hope that Dr. Maya is able to spin a positive, much needed message to the Latino community and Hillary supporters who may not vote Obama come November. I was extremely impressed by her and meeting her made me realized how much I cannot wait to have a new style of politics in this country. Having come of voting age in a Bush Administration, I am more than ECSTATIC in a CHANGE for this country, not only on how we see each other as Americans, but how the rest of the world sees as citizens of this planet. We come from all over different pockets of this world, with goals and dreams to be great. I honestly feel that with Obama’s leadership we can begin to be the nation and the people we only pretend to be… and that… is exciting!
(in the pic: marcia guzman, me, dr. maya, leticia garcia)