Why Can’t Obama Have a Vacation?

All presidents take time off to regroup, and this "elite" location has deep roots in African-American history.

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My own view is, let him and his family have fun wherever and whenever he can. The man is taking a beating daily, in the polls and from constant bombardment from the GOP campaigns. Look at his hair, how it seems more difficult for his barbers to conceal the gray. I get the feeling that some days he says, “Forget it. Let the gray show!” And I loved his answer to those who urged him to call senators and members of Congress back in session; I felt that it would be the worst thing for those who have been causing him and the country so much torment to return to town now, and he seemed to concur.

The president’s choice of Martha’s Vineyard is nothing new. He vacationed here before he was elected, and he has returned annually since. The family takes up residence for 10 days at the Blue Herron Farm, which rents for $50,000 a week.

He plays golf, and the family dines at local restaurants on Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs and along its waterfront. His daughters, Sasha and Malia, have stopped in at video and game shops, usually causing excitement among the young patrons. This year, young people have flocked to the arcade on Circuit, cameras in hand, hoping the Obama girls will make an appearance.

Last year my friends and I went to a restaurant the Obamas had just departed, and a tourist refused to give up the seat that the president had occupied.

The first family’s visits always cause headaches for islanders, tourists and other visitors. Streets are blocked, and patrons at restaurants and other businesses are sometimes locked inside or temporarily barred by Secret Service agents protecting the Obamas. One street, East Chop, where White House Senior Adviser and Assistant Valerie Jarrett has a house, was blocked last year for about half an hour when the Obamas arrived for an outing, holding up guests attending other events in the tony neighborhood. But most people here, including those on East Chop, accept the slight inconveniences with glee.     

Blacks on Martha’s Vineyard are not new. Jill Nelson, the writer and journalist, calls it home and explains the black presence in her fine history, Finding Martha’s Vineyard: African Americans at Home on an Island. She notes that “it is not a racial utopia, but it was and is better than most places.” The book flap says the island “has provided respite and rejuvenation, community and contemplation for generations of African Americans.” The Vineyard was settled by slaves and their descendants, who first came with their white employers and “established a haven and a community” for “black middle-class families who came each summer to escape the heat, hostility and racial tension of their hometowns; and generations of African-American professionals — doctors, presidential advisors, writers, academics, and artists.”