Obama speech prompts a look back on Edmonton that was - Metro US

Obama speech prompts a look back on Edmonton that was

Barack Obama’s inauguration speech made me think about Edmonton.

He said 60 years ago his black father might not have been served in a restaurant.

That made me remember Tampa in the 1950s and experiencing a segregated city first-hand.

My brother and I created a stir in a Woolworth’s by sitting on the “for coloureds” side of the rope that divided the lunch counter and we were told to move.

The whites had the better seats, but rather than making me feel privileged, even as a young kid, I felt stained by this exercise in intolerance.

Every day on my way to work, this city paints me a portrait from its palette of diversity.

As I make my way through the pedways that lead to my office, I am treated to brief glimpses of the wide variety of races and cultures that contribute to the rich tapestry that is Edmonton.

On any given day, I will pass a constantly moving sea of faces that are yellow, black, brown, white and all the shades in between.

In the midst of all the women dressed for success, I see some wearing hijabs and others swathed in bright African dresses.

I see men in turbans and street clothes and others armoured up in their business suits.

As I pass by these people, I hear snippets of other languages: Hindi, Chinese, Tagalog, French, Spanish, Arabic and Punjabi.

The city not only paints a picture of diversity, it sings a song as well.

What a different place this is than the one I moved to more than 30 years ago.

I remember asking a number of people where I could get a cappuccino only to be met with looks of complete bewilderment.

If you wanted that kind of coffee, the only place you could go was to Spinneli’s in Little Italy.

In those days, a fine meal consisted of surf and turf and the ever-so-exotic cheese or garlic bread accompaniment.

One has two choices when faced with change: Rail against it or embrace it.

I am pleased to live in a city where we have chosen to do the latter rather than the former.

This is a much more interesting city racially, culturally and gastronomically, than it was three decades ago.

In great measure, we owe that to the men and women who have come from around the world to make Edmonton their home.

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