Achy Obejas

writer & translator

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The Gift


“What will he call you?” my mother asked when my wife, infant son and I visited her earlier this year. She wanted to know how our son, Ilan, would address us.

My mom is 82, an exile, a flexible Catholic like most Cubans, but I’m pretty sure that she — like me — never imagined asking such a question.

“Well, I suppose he’ll call us whatever he wants,” I said, grateful for her interest, “but for now, we say ‘mama’ for Megan and ‘mami’ for me.”

My mom nodded. Such a simple question, really, but such a milestone. My wife Megan and I had already noticed that, good intentions aside, the elderly women in my family — and there are many — were struggling with how to articulate my relationship to my son.

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Harold Washington’s lessons for Obama

AP Photo/James Bourdier

There are probably hundreds of thousands of people who have first-hand, shared memories of Harold Washington becoming Chicago’s first black mayor and of Barack Obama becoming the country’s first African-American president. There are certainly several dozen people (at least) who were actively involved in both efforts.

You’d think, then, that more people would pick out the parallels between Washington and Obama’s first terms. Yet, it appears that some important lessons have gone unnoticed. Why bring this up now? Sunday is the 25th anniversary of Washington’s passing. Perhaps it’s as good a moment as ever to consider his crusade and what it meant. Washington’s legacy is, more than anything, to fight for what’s right. (For disclosure, I worked on Washington’s committee on gay and lesbian issues. I also worked on the media team for his 1987 reelection campaign.)

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