In January of this year I got an assignment to photograph a little restaurant on the city’s northeast side. I enjoyed talking with the owner, Florence, so much that I went back several times, got lots of pictures and turned the assignment into a slideshow. During the course of our conversations, Florence told me about her father who was at that time, 102 years old. She said that if Barack Obama got the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for President that her dad wanted to be first in line to vote for him.
I knew right then what I’d be doing on election day.
By November, Robert Jones, a black man born in Oklahoma, was 103 years old. He was still excited to get to the polls and vote. The week before he voted, he fell in his home and was taken to the hospital, but that didn’t stop him from going into the Oklahoma County Election Board to vote early on Nov. 1, 2008.
Here’s a link to the page on NewsOK.com about Robert. The video is embedded on this page.
To me this story has little to do with the politics of the man getting the vote. If our job is to document history, then I witnessed something special last Saturday. Our country is just over 200 years old. Robert Jones has been alive for almost half of that. He has never had a chance to see a man of his race run for president. In our history, I doubt a black man will ever have to wait 100 years to vote for a black candidate again. As a 33 year old white man, that really made me think. I was born into the majority, until last week I’d seen nothing but people of my race and gender running the country. Robert enthusiasm to vote was contagious. The best part of the morning though was how Robert was treated by everyone in line. Robert’s granddaughter saved him a place in line. One woman, who had been there since 3 a.m. and was first in line, stood up, and applauded when Robert approached. “Praise God,” she said, “Praise God.”
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