On November 2, 2012, four days before Election Day, President Barack Obama came to Ohio for a last hurrah tour through the central and southwest regions of The Buckeye State. A swing state that has been projected to determine the fate of the country’s leadership with considerable specificity, Ohio has long been the heart of the country -- not just in geography, but in sociopolitical activity, as well. In a three-part series exclusive, Shadow League got personal with three Ohioans whom all intimated their opinions and intentions for voting in Tuesday’s election in America’s “Battleground”.
Part One focuses on Voting For Obama.
Also Read: "Part Two: Voting For Romney"
Name: Harris Tay
Home base: Dayton, Ohio
Occupation: Community Center Executive Director
“I will be voting for Barack Obama.”
Harris Tay uttered those six words with a faint hesitance. Not one to be partisan, he was just beginning to expound on his hopes for the President, for the government and for the nation.
Sitting in the in the parlor of his mother-in-law’s home in Springfield, OH, after just discovering the sex of his wife’s forthcoming child at a baby reveal party thrown by family and friends(it’s a girl), he was exhausted and ready to make the journey back to his own abode. However, he was still forthright about his desire to collect his thoughts and opine on his political stance.
“I have to speak up.”
Not that it has been easy for him to say the right thing at the right time, but Tay saw early that communicating a view can be life-altering. A resident of Dayton, OH, Tay grew up as the son of two ministers in Baltimore and D.C. and learned soon into his childhood what petitioning for change could mean for his community.
“Growing up [in the DMV], politics to me just seemed really far,” he explained. “I remember us lobbying and fighting, I remember us just really pushing politicians to respond.”
Only 29 years old, Tay began to expound on his memories, when he spent time in the deep inner city of Baltimore, not far from “The Pharmacy,” best known from HBO’s epic series, The Wire. Growing up he thought politicians basically only responded to people who already were organized, rich, and displayed general forms of hooliganism on television.
“Just seeing the gentrification [in Baltimore], just wondering what happened to [the people], even the crackheads…I realized that they were just displaced, and it just bothered me.”
That displacement ended up becoming a defining aspect of his life for the next era of his life.
After graduating from Clark Atlanta University with a B.A. in sociology and an M.A. in educational leadership in 2006, Tay began his career as a missionary. Having spent time in Hawaii and in Dayton working with disadvantaged and disenfranchised people, Tay eventually returned to both Atlanta and the DMV. After the death of his father and contemplating a career in ministry, Tay returned to Ohio to accept a position as executive director of a faith-based, non-profit community center located on Dayton’s west side.
Through all of those experiences, Tay found several commonalities with President Obama, one being ethnicity, or rather, ethnicities. Tay himself is a first-generation American of mixed African-Latin-Caribbean heritage – his late father was Ghanian, and his mother is of Panamian-Barbadian descent.
"In my generation, in my time, I dare to say, that this is the first president ever than I can actually identify with on multiple levels -- as a person of multicultural background, you spend your life trying to figure out, ‘Where do you fit?’, and I believe that President Obama has had a similar situation (with the African background, with the Hawaiian background, and with his time in Chicago [as a community organizer])." Tay said.
A registered Democrat, Tay believes that Democrats, locally and nationally, are a lot more responsive to human issues than Republicans.
"I think of a conservative agenda, I think of the concept of conservation, but what exactly are those conservatives trying to conserve?” Tay asked. "And that's the concept that really bothers me. Are we conserving the economy that was built on the backs of slaves, or are we really conserving the foundational elements of equality and brotherhood and mutual respect? That's what I'm interested in conserving.
"I’m voting for mutual respect. ... I believe that the way that President Obama was treated in his last tenure did not speak to respect, and that's why in this election, I feel like I have to vote."
Tay then mentioned the issue of fairness, a concept that has seemed to escape the uncivil nature of today’s American politics, remarking that Obama wasn’t given the due respect that he has merited from his counterparts.
"He deserves a fair chance,” Tay said. “Do I think he is perfect? No, I don't think any human being is perfect, but I believe everyone deserves a fair chance."
Tiring, and glazed from fatigue, hours previously spent watching football, and the energy expended from deep reflection, Tay noted his hopes for the nation, should Obama remain as the country’s standing Commander-In-Chief. Adequate support from Obama’s peers, and the national realization of the toxicity of “Red vs. Blue” were at the top of Tay’s desires for a more perfect union.
"I look forward to a culture of honesty, integrity, and shared opportunity."