Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The Rainbow Connection
No. Sorry. This isn’t going to be a post about Kermit the Frog, but after typing that title, I just couldn’t resist slipping the song in. So, anyway….
Remember that stop-motion/claymation video Wednesday made about bullying and self-esteem which won her the top prize and $2000 in the Expressions Contest? (If not, click HERE.) Well, we attended the award ceremony a couple of weeks ago; Wednesday was presented with her prize money (cha-ching!); and then we went home and it was over and done with.
Or so we thought.
Then we got a phone call from Expressions last week that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition was all excited about the contest and the kids involved in it, and that they wanted to honor Wednesday and the other winners at their headquarters in Chicago. (Rumor even had it that Rev. Jesse Jackson might be there! *mind spinning*) So, of course, we agreed to go.
Saturday morning, we got up early and dolled ourselves up and headed out to the car. We were given the address of their headquarters in two different emails the Expressions people had sent us, so we plugged that address into our GPS and off we went. But…. Unfortunately, the address was wrong! We ended up outside someone’s home, not the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. D’oh! Thankfully though, we had given ourselves plenty of extra time just in case and Scope had noticed a building we had passed a few streets back had the word PUSH on it, so we backtracked to that location, hoping that it was either the correct place or that they would at least be able to tell us where we should go if it wasn’t.
When we got there, they buzzed us into the building and, after a little confusion at the receptionist’s desk, it was determined that, yep, we were in the right building, but we were too early, so we were asked to wait a few minutes before heading back. As we sat in the waiting area, watching people quickly filling up the lobby, I was suddenly struck by two sharp revelations:
1. Everybody was SUPER dressed up. Like, Sunday best kind of dressed up, with snazzy hats, jewelry, dress shoes, the works.
2. Scope, Wednesday, and I were the only white people there.
I was suddenly EXTREMELY thankful that I had chosen to throw on my little black dress that morning! I mean, I almost didn’t. I almost went casual, thinking that only Wednesday needed to look spiffy since she was the one being honored and all. But then Scope had put on a tie and, well, frankly, I’d rather eat spiders than be out-classed like that. So, on a whim, I grabbed the LBD just to balance out the fanciness.
(Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, thank you, thank you, thank you, vanity!!!! You day-saving, sexy beast, you!!!!)
As I sat there, boiling over in thankfulness that my chosen outfit was a nice dress and not a Harry Potter t-shirt—(hey, if I’m going to be the one representing my heritage, I wanna do it right!…. Or at least not disgrace myself)—it started to dawn on me that this event we had been invited to was a much bigger deal than we had realized. There were a lot of people there; a lot of really excited people who had gone to much trouble to look their very best. This couldn’t all be for the four Expressions contest winners, right?….
Just as worry started to whisper in my ear (seriously, what the hell was going on and where were all the other Expressions winners?!), the three of us were called back into a maze of corridors and offices, where, standing near a doorway, beckoning us into a conference room, was none other than the Reverend Jesse Jackson himself!
THE Jesse Jackson.
I could hardly believe it. He shook our hands and greeted us warmly, and I told him it was wonderful to meet him, while a very star-struck Wednesday’s eyes grew to the size of dinner plates. Yeah, we had been told that Jesse Jackson MIGHT be there, but as poor Hadiya Pendelton’s funeral was taking place that same day, I had assumed he would not be, because he, very clearly, had more pressing matters to attend to.
We entered the conference room and were directed to sit down at a big, oblong table, where another Reverend of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, who was practically pulsating with purpose and activity (let’s call her Busy Reverend), came in to meet us and kept talking to us about “the program”.
Umm…. Program?…. What program?….
She looked at us in disbelief and then told us that Wednesday was supposed to be giving a speech ON LIVE WORLD-WIDE TV in just a few minutes from now.
A speech? On TV? WHAT?! When Expressions had told us we were invited, no-one said anything about any of that. In fact, I had specifically asked them on the phone if Wednesday needed to bring or prepare anything, and they told me no, that they would supply a poster for Wednesday to hold on a stage while she was congratulated, and that would be that. But now they wanted a speech?…. ON LIVE TV????
Busy Reverend didn’t seem at all amused by our confusion, our unpreparedness, and our ignorance of the weekly TV show Wednesday was about to be a part of. She wanted to know where all the other Expressions winners and coordinators were and why Wednesday was the only Expressions representative there. I stammered something to her about how the address they’d given out was incorrect, so, perhaps, everyone was lost and would be delayed because of it. That didn’t sit well and I was, again, reminded that this was a LIVE WORLD-WIDE TELEVISION BROADCAST that would wait for no-one.
Poor Wednesday must have felt like bolting for the door! I know I would have. But she held it all together and quietly whispered to me out of the side of her mouth, “Mom! What should I do?” And the two of us put our heads together at that table to quickly cook up a two-second thank-you speech for her to give, should no-one else show up before the broadcast began.
A few other people were ushered into the room with us for a quick briefing before the show started, but they weren’t the Expressions people; they were with other organizations who were also slated to be part of the show as well, and they all seemed to know exactly why they were there and what they were supposed to be doing and they were practically doing cartwheels of excitement over the whole thing. I felt a pang of annoyance that we hadn’t been adequately informed about what we were walking into like everyone else seemed to be, and a double pang of annoyance that my baby would be on Live TV but I hadn’t set up the DVR to record it or been able to tell anyone about it because this was the first we had heard of it!
Jesse Jackson came in and out of the room a couple of times while Wednesday and I were quietly hatching an impromptu speech plan on the sly. Then he told us he wouldn’t be staying for the television broadcast because he would be attending Hadiya’s funeral, as I’d expected. He asked us if we would like a picture with him before he left, so we ran out to the lobby with him for a quick photo session.
(You can’t tell in the picture because she’s behind me, but Jesse Jackson had his arm wrapped around Wednesday’s shoulder in a really sweet half-bear hug! She was all star-struck after he had left. “Mom! Did you see it? He had his arm around me! Squeeeeeeeee!”)
The Expressions coordinators and other winners (including the real girl who was picked to give the speech) ended up making it to the right building just in time for the broadcast after all, saving Wednesday a heaping helping of humiliation and stress! (She practically melted into a puddle of relief when the speech girl showed up, I swear!) and then we were all led into the auditorium for the televised ceremony.
I don’t really know what I had expected. I’d had so little time to concoct any sort of well-formed expectation of what a live TV show stage at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition Headquarters might look like, I guess. I just know I wasn’t expecting what we stepped into. It was like a church and a telethon had had a baby! There was a gospel choir, blinding lights, a stage, massive TV cameras swiveling in all directions, and a very (VERY) excited audience.
We were ushered into the front row, right in front of the stage. They made us switch seats up and down our row a few times in an attempt to make the audience look just right—and only then did I realize that Wednesday wouldn’t be the only one of the three of us on TV that day, and that the cameras would be on Scope and me too. *gulp* An energetic fellow got on the microphone at the front of the stage and told us all to put our “best TV faces” on, and then the show started and we were on live TV.
What happened over the next hour is a complete blur to me. I don’t know, maybe my brain had just reached its limit of surprise-tolerance for the day and shut down or something, I’m not sure. All I have left are fragments of it, including bright lights in my face; a preacher making me burst into tears (On! Live! T! V!) when he started talking about Hadiya Pendleton’s murder; and that every now and then the gospel choir would erupt in song and everyone would leap out of their chairs and dance and clap along in that awesome, enthusiastic way that African American’s possess…. and which made me horrifically aware that I have all the rhythm of freaking Fozzie Bear.
(Yeah. Muppets again. I don’t know where this keeps coming from. Sorry. Oy.)
And, of course, I remember my baby being honored on stage. She stood there, smiling and looking so brave, so composed, so alarmingly grown up. *sniffle*
Despite all the confusion beforehand, the show went off without a single hitch. And, looky, you can even see Scope and me armed with our cameras in the TV monitor over the kids’ heads as they left the stage.
And then suddenly it was finished and we were released back out into the world, dazed, blinking, and bewildered.
If I didn’t have pictures of it in my camera, I swear I would think it had all been just a very strange dream.