‘The dream has happened’

Regina Garcia Cano

Obama victory inspires black community

Keishunda Miller, Kd Kneica and another spectator celebrate after CNN announced Barack Obama the winner of the 2008 presidential election Tuesday night in Grant Park, Ill. Hundreds of thousands of people, mostly under 30, turned out to watch and listen to

Credit: DKS Editors

Gavin Jackson | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Gavin Jackson | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Shirley Chisolm, a New York congresswoman, was the first black citizen to run for president in 1972. Jesse Jackson, a Baptist minister and civil rights activist, ran for president in 1984 and 1988.

But it wasn’t until Tuesday night that America elected a black citizen to occupy the Oval Office – Barack Obama.

“The dream has happened; this is the dream,” said Halim El-Dabh, emeritus professor of music. “It’s a blossoming feeling that is going to vibrate in the entire world. We are a very special nation. Our diversity, our mix of religions, this is the joint reality of America.”

El-Dabh said he never imagined that during his lifetime a black man would have been elected to be president of the United States.

“I was jumping with my cane,” the 87-year-old professor said. “I celebrated walking from the Rathskeller to Oscar Ritchie Hall. It was a very big day for me. This injected me life.”

The joy had no age. Younger people were just as surprised as El-Dabh.

“I’m shocked,” senior anthropology major Nicole Williams said. “I’m like, ‘you’re lying.’ Not because I didn’t want him to win, but because you just expect the worse and hope for the best. The United States having elected him is just amazing.”

No words could describe the happiness of some students.

“I feel like running, jumping, dancing. It is an unexplainable joy,” said Shané Williams as she bounced up and down. “I can’t take anymore.”

Shané Williams, a doctoral candidate in the College and Graduate School of Education, Health and Human Services, said the president-elect is the representation of progress.

“Barack Hussein Obama is the result, the product of all the deaths, all of the struggle, the fighting, the civil rights,” she said.

In contrast with El-Dabh, for George Garrison, professor of Pan-African studies, Obama’s victory is not the achievement of Martin Luther King’s dream, but he said, it is a giant step toward its realization.

“I feel tremendously grateful to be living at this point in time to witness that the prayers of people over many generations continue to be fulfilled and answered,” Garrison said. “I feel that we are at crossroads of history.”

For some voters, Obama’s triumph was a political achievement. Race had only a minor role in the decision.

“Some voted for him because he was black,” said Wendy Wilson-Fall, associate professor of Pan-African studies. ” Some voted for him despite he was black. But others voted without race being the issue and that’s the greatness about it.”

Ashley Tolliver, president of Black United Students, said Obama may make mistakes simply because of his human condition, but the nation should be patient. For her, unity is what will bring change.

“Change is going to take time,” Tolliver said. “He needs the nation’s cooperation. We are going to stay united in order to push the policies that we want.”

After deciding who will govern this nation during the next four years, voters are aware this is not a one-day responsibility. Some said it is their obligation as responsible citizens to support the president-elect throughout the time he is in office.

“It is my responsibility to stay active, not just sit back,” Williams said. “We need to keep talking to our representatives. Don’t drop the ball, he needs our support.”

Contact minority affairs reporter Regina Garcia Cano at [email protected].