Sometimes I wonder how I got be where I got to be.
Today a fellow Delaware County Young Democrat and I planned to go over to Chester to help with John Linder’s campaign for mayor. However, when I woke up, I found that it was raining not rain, not snow, but ice from the sky. The weather had turned to winter over night. So bundling up in my smart wool socks, alpaca gloves, and an assorted number of layers, I braced myself for a cold morning of doorknocking. Hurriedly, I ate a bowl of cereal and headed out the door.
However, when my friend and I arrived at the Democratic Headquarters, I found that my prayers to stay warm had been answered. We were going to a local diner. With yet another layer added to my wintery attire (the campaign gave me one of their XL-size bright blue John Linder for Mayor sweatshirts), Nick and I piled into the back of the Dems van (where we found not seats, but a futon to sit on… needless to say it was interesting) and headed to Upland Diner.
I love Democrats. Especially young ones. And I’m not just saying that to be narcissistic.
At our table was Nafis Nichols, one of the Democrats running for city council. Nick and I had the chance to talk with him for awhile, and I couldn’t help but be impressed not just by his policies and thoughts about what needs to change in Chester (Why doesn’t Chester have a Health and Human Services department? Or even a few social workers? Why does it have to be so difficult for Chester High graduates to go on to Delaware Community College? Why does the city and school district keep being run by one party?), but by his age. He’s only twenty-seven, and he’s not just running for city council, but also taking graduate classes at Villanova, working at Crozer-Keystone Community Hospital, and raising a daughter who’s turning three just before the Election. And he was born and raised in Chester.
Three cups of coffee and a few pancakes later, we learned that the next stop on the campaign trail was going to be the barbershop owned by Nafis’ uncle. Piling into the van again, we headed around the corner and hopped out to talk to all of the men getting their hair cut.
Let me now point out that it was at this point where I wondered how I got to be where I got to be. A year or two ago, if you had told me that I, a Midwestern white girl, would have taken a van with a futon in the back to a barbershop full of African-American men getting their haircut, I probably would have been like, “What? For reals? They won’t laugh at me for being there?” But thank God life is crazy, and often in the best way possible. The questions the barbers and community members asked at the shop were spot on. “Why does the city give so much attention to athletic achievement, but not to academic? Why is someone celebrated when they win in basketball, but not when they get a 4.0? Why is there such a focus on development along the Waterfront, and not on developing our local population through education?” And John Linder’s answers were even better. It’s time a school district that has over $121 million for 7,000 students gets its act together and becomes more transparent about where all of that money is going. It’s time that they be held accountable by the community for change, and train their graduates, college-bound or non-college bound, for the 21st century. It’s time, essentially, for the community to have a say over the education of their children.
And handing out literature outside on the grocery store at the other end of the strip mall, it seemed like community members did want change. They asked questions, took literature, and gave John Linder backslaps and hugs. Hopefully this critical thinking and enthusiasm will carry over to November 8th, and Chester, as a city, will finally see some political change. My fingers are crossed.