Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Obama's Historic Victory

African American Pittsburghers celebrate historic presidential vote
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
By Monica Haynes and Deborah M. Todd, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Matt Freed/Post-Gazette
Janet Pollard and her son, Jordan, 14, watch early returns at the home of Ron Saunders in Penn Hills last night.
In the cozy family room of his Penn Hills home, where family photos and African-American art adorn the walls, Ron Saunders danced.
It wasn't anything elaborate. Just a little shimmy, a small celebration after MSNBC projected that Sen. Barack Obama had won Ohio, clearing the way for his sweeping election win.
But Mr. Saunders didn't dance alone. Also celebrating were his wife, Judy, her sisters, Linda McDougald of Massillon, Ohio, and Gwen Howze of Stanton Heights, and their sister-in-law, Janet Pollard of Lincoln-Lemington.
They'd all gathered to watch election returns.
Pennsylvania had been checked off for Mr. Obama about 90 minutes earlier, but the call for Ohio meant he was even closer to the 270 electoral votes needed to become president of the United States.
Network exit polls reveal that the economy was a major issue for most voters.
But for many African Americans there was also the matter of history.
For the first time in his 62 years, Mr. Saunders was able to vote for an African American as a major party candidate for president.
"I just had a feeling of, Wow, maybe I am a little bit part of this democratic experiment," he said. "It was just a feeling of euphoria."
It's a feeling he wanted to share with family as they gathered to watch something none of them thought they'd see in their lifetime. His late parents, he said, would be "ecstatic."
The historic nature of the 2008 presidential race has prompted African Americans throughout Pittsburgh and across the country to hold election night parties, gatherings and "watch night" services.
At the Urban League Young Professionals watch party at Sports Rock in the Strip District, results were viewed in nervous anticipation. But when Mr. Obama's victory was secured and Sen. John McCain delivered his concession, the nervousness changed to cheers and, in many cases, to tears.
Often they talked of what Mr. Obama's victory would have meant to parents and grandparents who didn't live to see it.
"I'm ecstatic. My grandparents, they died for this moment. I have one grandmother alive. When Obama gave his speech in 2004, she cried. When he won tonight, I cried," said Sterling Goodrum, 25, of North Side.
Marisa Bartley, a branch manager for Citizens Bank, said she and other African Americans had cast their vote for Mr. Obama "for their ancestors. My grandfather served in the Air Force ... and he didn't live to see this," she said through tears.
"I'm just proud of America. It's beautiful. Growing up with my grandparents, that's stuff we never thought would happen. I thought a lot about it as a kid but to see it, that makes me teary," said Rod Nixon, 26, of McKeesport, an information systems specialist.
Shauna Brown, 27, of Oakdale, senior conference manager, UPMC, said she was still a little stunned. "I've never been more proud. I keep rubbing my eyes to make sure I'm seeing this. I don't feel like I've completely internalized this all yet."
La'Tasha D. Mayes, 27, of Highland Park, the president of Urban League Young Professionals, said, "When I woke up this morning, I knew today our lives would never be the same. The fact that a person of color, a black man, someone so universally exceptional has become president of the United States, today our ancestors and all that come after us watched what we did,"
Kingsley Adeoye, a graduate student in electrical engineering at University of Pittsburgh said the message in Mr. Obama's victory was good for everyone. "Blacks can think of themselves better and whites can look at blacks in a different way. It's a different country right now."
"It could be a reality at the end of the night," said 28-year- old Terrell Williams, admitting he was a little antsy watching the returns. He acknowledged the race has invigorated a whole new set of voters.
Brittany Lay, a 23-year old auditor from Chartiers, agreed, saying new voters from the black community have likely been drawn into the political process for the long haul.
"Once you get started learning what's going on in politics, it's hard to back away," she said. "Obama definitely got it started, but I think it can continue."
Ms. Lay said she was especially proud of young people who showed up to vote and were at the polls right along with her as soon as they opened at 7 a.m. She said she "didn't know what was going on at all" as a college freshman during the 2004 elections, but turbulent times and excitement generated by Mr. Obama's candidacy have made politics relevant to young people today.
"People are actually paying attention to politics because of Obama and normally they don't know what's going on," she said. "Our country is suffering tremendously and I think a lot of people are just tired of it. They're scared for the future and Obama came along and he's a drastic change."
Susan Jackson, a chemical engineer from Cranberry, said an Obama presidency would benefit the country as a whole, not just the black community. She said black people would also benefit, however, from a new representation of what the world thinks of when it thinks of black Americans.
"It's nice to have such a positive African-American role model when all you see these days is not the best of us," she said. "Hopefully, he casts African Americans in a better light in the whole world."
In Atlanta, the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, Bernice King and other ministers and civil rights activist held an election "watch night" at Ebenezer Baptist Church, the home of Dr. Martin Luther King's ministry.
Watch Night, traditionally held on Dec. 31 in African-American churches, began taking on a special significance when slaves held the service in 1862 in anticipation of the Emancipation Proclamation taking affect Jan. 1, 1863.
"It is not just a political moment. It is a sacred and historical moment ... as we see part of the dream become a reality and be in a position to make the other parts of the dream closer to fruition," the Rev. Sharpton said before the service.
Mr. Saunders is part of that dream, too.
"I grew up in the Hill and everybody on [Francis] street went to college," Mr. Saunders said. "Everybody succeeded at a time of harsh Jim Crowism."
"That was the era of Jackie Robinson," he said. "You had to be better."
His parents, Beatrice L. and James S. Robinson Jr., owned confectionery and grocery stores in the Hill. His mother worked as an office manager for the New Pittsburgh Courier and was the first African-American female board executive for the American Newspaper Guild. His father, a judo expert, trained troops in self-combat during World War II. He also helped integrate the Highland Park swimming pool.
Active in the community, starting block watches and civic organizations, Mr. Saunders' parents were role models, he said. But so, too, was the guy next door and the lady across the street.
The activism of his parents and neighbors spilled over onto him.
Mr. Saunders, a retired youth care counselor for the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, blogs about politics and social issues. His wife is a retired supervisor for Common Pleas Court, Family Division.
Both are active members of the St. Paul Cathedral's Race & Reconciliation Dialogue Group while he is also a member of the Black Jewish Dialogue of the American Jewish Committee.
The Saunders' efforts on behalf of Mr. Obama started long before they went to the polls yesterday.
"We've been making calls, canvassing, donating to the brother," he said. "It's been inspiring, It's been uplifting, something to really believe in."
Moriah Balingit contributed to this report. Monica Haynes can be reached at or 412-263-1660. Deborah M. Todd can be reached at or 412-263-1652.
First published on November 5, 2008 at 1:24 am

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Never Underestimate the Youth of the Real America!

By Elizabeth Roach (

As a nation we have so many things to be thankful for, and the youth of America go to the top of the list. Their devoted involvement in Barack Obama’s message of change was grossly underestimated by the political pundits. They were skeptical of any major turnout on the part of the young voters. Although they were excited by Obama’s rallies, it was said that their enthusiasm would not last; that when it really counted, they would probably not actually vote. Well, guess what? Their interest was not just skin-deep. These young people were enchanted by Obama’s poetic rhetoric and its content.
A worthy cause will attract decent young people and they will commit. Remember Kent State? Remember the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s. Youth made a difference every time. A new cause was found in Barack Obama’s call for change. A committed youth saw through the McCain/Palin attempt to abscond with Obama’s message of change; they saw through the desperate Republican smear campaign; they ignored the divisive “us-vs-them” language that characterized it. And they delivered.

By the same token, African American voters command no less respect for their turnout. We have not seen such numbers relating to an election or political event since Martin Luther King’s "I Have A Dream” speech during the March on Washington. The Civil Rights Movement is another example of the power of Black unity when it is focused and determined to achieve a goal. Remember Andrew Young‘s call for African Americans to take their destiny into their own hands and to force the local bus company to end discriminatory practices by holding on to the mighty dollar “so tight the eagle screams.” That monumental challenge was taken on by a united black community. People walked everywhere rather than continue facing the humiliation of sitting in back of a bus. The loss of income forced the bus company to cave in to their demand.

If the African American community learns anything from the success of Barack Obama’s run for the Presidency, it is this: the force they mustered to vote as a block, should not be saved for special occasions. African Americans must nurture and maintain this political force. It must be ever present and on the ready to vault them firmly into the political arena on a level playing field.

And finally, all honor to the Americans who braved the elements, the long lines and the long hours to keep democracy alive in our country.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vote Barack for Hope

By Kaitlyn Taylor

(The following poem was written by Kaitlyn Taylor who is 16 and is a sophomore at Woodland Hills High School, located in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA.)

Here’s something that’s evident
Obama will be our new president
Why should we discuss presidential issues
Cause being afraid will affect me and you
Obama plans to help struggling families
Which I’m sure is both you and me
I’m sure you’ll need that healthcare
Because being on welfare won’t compare
Obama shall be your choice
And as long as you can vote
You have a voice
Obama is the change we need
Or need we change to excel and proceed
In order to change the game
It’s time for something new
Obama’s plan involves what’s best for you
Barack the vote
Because he gives us hope!