Taylor Ready for Democratic Convention
Tessie Taylor was 15 years old when her grandmother put her on a bus in New York to travel to Washington to attend the march led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Though she was distracted by the severe heat of August 1963, Taylor nevertheless remembers the intensity of fellow marchers as they listened with tears in their eyes to the famous "I have a dream" address.
Now, as she prepares to leave for the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Taylor is making plans to wear a button inscribed "My Mama would have voted for Obama."
Her grandmother, whom she called "Mama," was her early mentor, a visionary who wanted the young Tessie to make her own mark on the world someday.
She couldn't muster up enough money for more than one ticket to Washington, D.C., and "Mama" made sure that ticket went to Tessie.
"I was on that bus," Taylor says of her grandmother's determination.
It was a bus filled largely with young people from her community who would become part of the historic gathering estimated at 250,000.
Already pledged to Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, Taylor says she supports Obama for a number of reasons, beginning with his youthful vitality and his stature outside "the good ol' boy" network.
"Barack Obama has the ability to relate to everyday problems of the average American family," she said. "He doesn't come to us from a position of inherited privilege."
Taylor said the next president must be someone who recognizes that leadership of the country means collaboration with Congress and with the states.
Asked if she thinks Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters will come around to Obama in spirit at the convention, Taylor is realistic enough to believe that some Democrats are unwilling to accept healing measures. Nevertheless, she hopes that most Clinton backers will support Obama by convention time. She sees positive signs of this already.
"Others, on both sides, are making gestures to really heal the rift for the sake of unity in the party," Taylor said. "In a broader sense, they all agree on the problems facing our country, especially the plight of working Americans. They understand that the next president will be a leader and must ultimately work in collaboration with Congress and all the states."
Taylor will support Obama's pick of Delaware Sen. Joe Biden for a running mate, though she admits that she preferred Sen. Jim Webb, of Virginia. She also thought Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine was highly qualified.
In any case, she said, "The time is past for a figurehead in that position. The country needs someone to take on a positive leadership role as vice president. This is much more important than a popularity contest."
She didn't believe that the balance in running mate must necessarily reflect age. Taylor said wisdom is not confined to older people, and she thinks there is much to be said for intelligence and the ability to listen to the public and to learn about a changing world.
'Overcome Great Divide'
Taylor said it's obvious that everyone, especially the young, is ready for change.
Aware that racial prejudice will play a role in the campaign and in the way some Americans vote, Taylor said that voters must remember that the first settlers moved here from Europe to find freedom from religious and political persecution.
"The Native Americans were already here," she said. "Everyone else coming since then is an immigrant."
She added that most African Americans did not arrive on these shores of their own free will.
Despite the prejudice of whites, Taylor pointed out that African Americans, as a race, no longer are a pure race. She shares information that one of her ancestors was an Irishman.
It's time to quit nursing our prejudices and regard everyone as an American, not as an African American or other label reflecting ethnic heritage, she said.
"We hold on to this candidacy to overcome the great divide," she said. "We're talking about the survival of a nation. All of us have contributed to that nation."
Taylor already knows most of her convention schedule.
On the first day she will attend the African American caucus. Her next duty will be participation in the faith-based caucus. On Volunteer Day, she will join other delegates packing medical supplies for shipment to Third World countries.
An unaffiliated voter most of her adult years, Taylor says she registered as a Democrat about 15 years ago after the late Jerome Ingram persuaded her this was the direction to take.
She describes Ingram as her mentor in the Democratic Party. They knew each other through activities in the West Southern Pines Civic Club.
Now a Jackson Hamlet resident, Taylor was born in New York and grew up in New York and Moore County.
After graduation from Malverne High School in Malverne, N.Y., she attended Nassau Community College in Garden City, Long Island.
She returned to Moore County when her mother became seriously ill.
Taylor is president of the West Southern Pines Civic Club and an active member of First Missionary Baptist Church in Southern Pines, where she sings in the choir and handles civic affairs for the congregation.
She is vice chairwoman of Pinehurst Democratic Precinct C and also president of the African American Caucus for North Carolina and for Moore County.
For the past nine and a half years, Taylor has worked as information systems coordinator for the Applications Department of FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
Before that, she worked in human resources at Kolcraft of N.C. at Aberdeen.
Although her parents and grandparents are deceased and she is divorced, Taylor has plenty of family left in Moore County. That family includes daughter, Learen Taylor Blue, and her husband, Anthony Blue, and "two fantastic grandsons" who live in Southern Pines.
Taylor credits many generous people for making her trip to Denver possible. Serving as a delegate is expensive in more ways than just the cost of airline tickets and hotel reservations. Obama campaign workers have also been supportive.
"The Obama team in Moore County is awesome," she said.
She was amazed at the outpouring of support, including financial gifts, when people learned that she was one of six national delegates from the 6th congressional district and one of the three initially pledged to Obama.
"I'm highly appreciative of all the support I've received," she said. "Some of it came from people I don't even know. Otherwise, I couldn't have made the trip. They have been very kind and very generous," she said.
Taylor leaves today and said she is ready to begin work when the convention opens today in the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Her grandmother, Tessie Henigan Kearns, died in 1994 at age 91, but she will be taking that inspiration with her to the national convention.
For Tessie Taylor, "this is a prime opportunity to take my mama to the convention."
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story