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Oakland Surges with Pride

New America Media, News Report, Viji Sundaram, Annette Fuentes and Ngoc Nguyen Posted: Nov 05, 2008

OAKLAND, Calif. -- The streets of downtown Oakland erupted into a boisterous, joyful celebration last night just before 8 p.m., as word spread that the major news media had called the election for president in favor of Democrat Barack Obama.

Within blocks of the Marriot Convention Center on Broadway, where the Obama campaign had set up its election day operations, jubilant Oakland residents, as well as those who had come from neighboring communities, let loose with their approval of the landslide victory of their candidate.

Cars and buses cruised along with horns blaring and occupants leaning out windows, shouting and waving to anyone and everyone around. Pedestrians responded enthusiastically.

"Kiss me quick," shouted an African American man to passers by, as he stood on a street corner near the Convention Center Bart station entrance.

Shouts of "Obama, Obama," filled the cold night air, as strangers suddenly became friends and exchanged high fives and hugs, and thumped each other's backs.

"We've come a long way from slavery to the presidency," said Leandre Harris, an 18-year-old black Alameda resident, who held his arms up in the air in joy, as he stood at the corner of Broadway and 13th Street.

Richmond resident 58-year-old J.L. Terrell, who had phone banked at the Convention Center all day, making at least 100 calls to folks in Alaska, Nevada, Colorado and Iowa, said his great grandmother was a slave, and that his parents had always encouraged him to be an activist.

"I wish they had been alive to see this day," he said, standing on a chair so he could get a better view of the television coverage of the celebrations. "Obama has opened up the door of the presidency to Chinese, Hispanics, Indians and people of every nationality," adding: "This is going to open up doors to women, too."

Ann Worth of Berkeley, a member of local 510, said despite all the distress people are experiencing from the collapse of banks and foreclosures of homes, there is now a sense of hope, a "sense of moving in the right direction."

Like many around the world who seem to look upon Obama as a kind of Messiah, U.Kovida, a Burmese monk, now living in the Bay Area, said quite confidently: "Now that Obama is president, he will liberate our country (Burma) from the dictators."

As one of the nation's historic centers of African American political power electoral and other Oakland's reaction to Obama's stunning and decisive win over Republican Sen. John McCain was appropriately boisterous and proud.

Here, in the birthplace of the Black Panther Party, which made one kind of history in the 1960s as a radical black nationalist group, black Oaklanders celebrated a new chapter in their history as the first African American was elected to president of the United States.

Inside the Convention Center, though, some 2,000 Obama supporters were as diverse as the voters who carried the 47-year-old Illinois senator to victory. Latinos and Asians, whites and blacks, gay, lesbian and straight, spanning all ages, had gathered to watch the election returns.

What many had expected would be a long night of close calls and slow returns instead ended quickly when Obama secured an unreachable lead of over 330 electoral votesvastly more than the 270 he needed to win.

Such politicians as Rep.Barbara Lee and Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums addressed the crowd, which waited expectantly for Obama's speech. Friends, families and fellow campaigners high-fived and hugged each other as they watched media coverage of McCain's concession speech and listened to news reports that left many shocked at the size of Obama's margin of victory.

And when their candidatepresident-elect Obama finally emerged on a stage in Chicago to claim his victory, his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters beside him, the audience fell silent, but not for long. Obama's speech was frequently interrupted with cheers, as he told the crowd that it was not his victory, but theirs. And for those who voted for McCain, Obama declared: "I may not have won your vote...but I will be your president." As he outlined what he hoped to do as president, the crowds chanted, "Yes we can."

And when he finished, organizers at the Convention Center set loose hundreds of red, white and blue balloons that had been hanging, waiting, above the room all night.

Then the crowd spilled outside of the Center, where car horns still honked and they added their shouts to the cacophony of the streets, while vendors hawked Obama T-shirts and buttons.

On Telegraph Avenue in neighboring Berkeley, Cal students poured into the streets shouting in jubilation and creating traffic jams. Few seemed to mind though, and even the police exercised no serious force to control them.

On a Bart train headed to Richmond packed with revelers, a sense of camaraderie filled the compartments. A man hurriedly boarded a train just as the doors were about to close, looked around anxiously and asked: "What train is this?"

"It's the Obama train," shouted back half a dozen or so passengers in one voice.

Everyone cheered.

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