If you ever want a glimpse of President Barack Obama, plan to be on Martha’s Vineyard in the month of August. Serving two terms in the White
House, the former president and his family have enjoyed the island retreat that has grown to be recognized as a mecca for African-Americans particularly during the month of August. The former first family vacationed on the Vineyard during seven of their eight years in the White House and visited the island last August, the first summer after leaving office. Arriving last Saturday, their vacation is expected to last for much of August.
This year, the island has also evolved into a hotbed for political fundraisers. Gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum (Florida) was on the island in addition to candidate Stacy Abrams (Georgia). There are also sightings of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Bill Clinton for high dollar events to be hosted at the home of Vernon Jordan.
Politics is not the only thing brewing. Last week’s highlight was the African-American Film Festival. The upcoming week will focus on more organized social events which kick into high gear during the second week of August. Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha sororities will host luncheons in addition to The Links, Incorporated and Jack and Jill of America. Morehouse and Howard alumni also host various events. Other events include comedy shows, concerts, receptions, fireworks and the house parties that are a backdrop to the Inkwell Beach.
Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, while mainstream vacation destinations strictly enforced exclusionary policies towards black vacationers, Oak Bluffs became the sole town on Martha’s Vineyard that welcomed African Americans both as permanent residents and as summer visitors.
For generations, Inkwell and Oak Bluffs have been gathering places for some of the most prominent black civil rights activists, lawyers, politicians and entertainers, who have made it a place of their own, for their families, traditions and rich cultural history.
From 19th century whaling captains to President Barack Obama and the first family, the Vineyard has been an integral part of African American history. In an American climate plagued with controversy from the White House to the streets, it is encouraging that people of color can still gather for fellowship and peace in a haven they can call their own.