Being a black patriot is a rugged path. Descended from enslaved Africans of the pre-American 1600s, I am one in a generation seated at the cumbersome inheritance American democracy. I am often restless, aware of the spikes and the lulls of progress—at times calmed in moments of reflection when I discover things like the fact James Baldwin believed, back in the early 1960s, we would have a black president of the United States with in a few generations. What great faith when today disillusionment with government comes so easy.
This year, launched with the release of Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and the postmortem fame of Trayvon Martin, calls for more patriots—American civilians who will stand and steer the direction of America through participation at the polls, yes, and service that forces government to labor for the wishes of its people.
Tonight the two leading candidates for president of the United States will convene for a debate on what America needs, each defending his own ability to deliver. And as this election cycle falls upon its final month, I wonder about the diverse pursuits of citizens for “a more perfect union.” I worry about the ability of presidential election cycles to deflate the passion of the masses through highbrow analysis and campaign financing. What place do the wishes of common Americans, in the midst of a disparaging economic downturn, hold in the conversation about our next four years?
Over the past year, HelloBeautiful has considered the wishes everyday black women hold for this country. Our survey was driven by a simple question: What is your one wish for America? The responses, as discovered in the photo essay, highlight a range of topics, most frequently those related to health care, education, and justice. Black women ranging from 19 to their late 70s shared their immediate thoughts on what America needed most. In some instances, the responses were incredibly personal. Some of us thought of black America first, while others considered an international perspective.
There is an old English adage, “if wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.” It serves to say that wishes are nothing without action. But I challenge than in a period of strained hope that reaches internationally, searching for wishes serves the same device as a doctor searching for a patient’s pulse. We must check that our faith in America exists if we are to hope for its continued growth.
Jenna Bond-Louden is a cosmopolitan based in Harlem who writes on art, literature, film and social trends. Formerly of the Clinton Foundation where she led the launch of the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund at age 22 and later served as a writer to Bill Clinton, her passion is for societal innovation. She served on the board of the Pipeline Crisis Winning Strategies Initiative for Young Black Men and was a 2008 recipient of the NYU Fellowship for Emerging Leaders in Public Service. She runs Imagine 1369, a strategy consultancy firm that helps creative leaders shape a better world.