I was sitting at my kitchen table when it was called. In true 2020 fashion, I was on a Zoom call with my colleagues. Applause broke out. Tears flowed and champagne was popped. I heard the streets of DC erupt in wild joy. I put on my sneakers and my mask and took my family for a walk through the city. I wanted to make sure my young Black Jewish daughter got to witness this moment in American history, this swell of liberation and joy, as DC residents poured out of our homes and into the streets.
I wanted my daughter to see it. I wanted to be able to tell her she was there. We ran hand in hand through the streets and she laughed, seeing adults whoop and scream and laugh and dance. JOE BIDEN! JOE BIDEN! Screams rang through the streets. People wept. People danced. Someone handed my daughter blue and silver streamers, which she waved, dancing and running up to grown-ups declaring: Joe Biden is our President! And they would cheer and clap in response.
People of all colors, social classes and creeds gathered together, the strict hierarchy of Washington society vanished and we danced and sang and wept. It was like what I imagine Simchat Torah would be in Olam Haba, everyone dancing in the street. No one wanted to be locked away in a safe, segregated corner, we were one city dancing to one uproarious beat.
I don’t always love life in Washington, but my heart belongs to DC, to the people. After years of trauma, desperation, fear, humiliation and loss, they wasted not one moment of joy and relief. Everyone was family. Everyone was best friends. It was the kind of joy one reads about at the end of the war. It felt like the end of an enormous battle for our lives and for our souls.
I lifted my little girl up and yelled This is history in the making! Several people grew emotional at the sight of our young Black daughter chanting in joy. They shouted, You can grow up to be whatever you want to be, little girl! You can live in the White House! Black women can do ANYTHING. My daughter is too little to understand, so she danced and yelled back, I am a ballerina.
We didn’t talk about Trump. We didn’t talk about pain. We didn’t talk about all that had been done to hurt America. Those reflections would come later. One day we will tell her about all we had fought and all we needed to keep fighting, but for now we ran through the streets overwhelmed with joy and relief.
We walked into an El Salvadorian restaurant in our neighborhood. The owner and his family were laughing, celebrating, and relief visible on their faces. America! We ate the food of those this President sought to destroy, degrade, dehumanize and ultimately deport. It just felt right to be feasting on pupusas.
While we ate, I kept bursting into tears. My daughter asked why. I told her sometimes when grown ups are really happy, they cry. She crawled into my lap, fed me a tortilla chip and cuddled up resting her head on my shoulder. “You worked really hard Mama,” she whispered.
“Yes I did. A lot of people worked really hard all over the country,” I told her.
“We won?” she asked. Yes darling. I am so proud of you Mommy,” she whispered. She kissed my face. Then she stood up on her chair and yelled, “I AM SO PROUD OF MY MOMMY! SHE HELPED JOE BIDEN!”
I thought nothing could be sweeter than winning. I was wrong. Nothing feels better than looking at your child and knowing she is proud of you.
As night settled in, we found ourselves on the porch of a new friend. There were no more strangers in the world. We drank champagne and bourbon and talked about the deep relief we felt. There would be work to do, so much work, work to repair and work to move forward and address the deep injustices in this country. Years and years of work. For now though, there was the sound of car horns, music and champagne popping. For now there was the sense of overwhelming joy settling into peace and contentment. We won. We won. We won.
Most of life in organizing for change is climbing up mountains, scraping your knees, out of breath and thirsty for change. Most of the time, you can’t even see the peak ahead, you just keep climbing and, in our darkest moments, just clinging to the sheetrock, hoping not to fall. Then there are those rare moments where you reach the top, after years of climbing. You stand on top of the mountain and see the view of America. You see history. You rest. You simply enjoy the view for a while. This was a mountaintop moment for millions.
I’ve never seen a more beautiful view. Thank you for climbing with me. Thank you to everyone who danced atop the mountains with me. May we scale up fathomable heights and dance at the top of them all.