Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama-Inspired Black Voters Warm to Politics

The impact Obama has made on the black community in this country is remarkable -- and will only grow when he's elected!

Over and again, first-time and relatively new voters like Mr. Matthews and Ms. Wilcox, far past the legal voting age, said they were inspired by the singularity of the 2008 election and the power of Mr. Obama’s magnetism. Many also said they were loath to miss out on their part in writing what could be a new chapter of American history — the chance to vote for a black president.

Mr. Battle, for one, remembers growing up in the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis and how intimidated the adults were about voting, and that left an impression on him. The older women he knew were afraid to walk to the polls, he said, for fear of being attacked.

“I didn’t think it was for black people, period,” he said of politics before the Civil Rights era. “We didn’t have any rights, really. We were just coming into voting and everything.”

Fast-forwarding to the present, he continued: “I never thought that I’d see this day. I never thought I’d see the day where an African-American was standing at the podium getting ready to be president.”...

Ms. Wilcox saw some of her own biography reflected in Mr. Obama’s. They were both born to single mothers and raised mostly by their grandparents in modest settings. Ms. Wilcox said she felt validated, motivated and inspired all at once when she first heard Mr. Obama’s life story during the primary season. “I began to think that we had a lot of life features in common,” she said. “It gave me hope.”

Bianca Williams, 20, a hair stylist in Brooklyn, said the campaign had changed her life. After seeing Mr. Obama in the first debate, she decided to go back to community college part-time. “After seeing his success, I started thinking maybe I could help my community like he did,” she said. “If he could do it then I could do it. It woke me up, career-wise. It just gave me the willpower to go on.”

That is also true for Mr. Matthews, who works in a Chicago coffee shop. Not too long ago, he said, he lied to his mother about having voted in an election just so that she would stop nagging him to get out and vote. What a difference this year has made: he said he watched the party conventions and three of the four presidential and vice-presidential debates. He has followed coverage of the candidates in the local papers. He voted in the primary, and he cannot wait to vote on Tuesday.

“As I’m talking now, I’m getting goose bumps,” he said.


Obama-Inspired Black Voters Warm to Politics

Published: November 1, 2008

Growing up in St. Louis in the 1950s and ’60s, Deddrick Battle came to believe that the political process was not for people like him — a struggling black man whose vote, he was convinced, surely would not count for much of anything. The thought became ingrained as an adult, almost like common sense. And that partly explains why, at age 55, he just registered to vote for the first time a month ago.


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