Senator Barack Obama made history as the first black man in the United States to be a major political party’s nominee for the office of the president. Obama accepted his party’s nomination in Denver at the Democratic National Convention at the end of August.
That night, a small, but anxious group of Africans gathered to watch Obama’s acceptance speech at Klub Afrika, a restaurant and night club in a Minneapolis suburb. The get-together was organized by Victor Abalo, a Togolese-American, who is one of the African outreach field coordinators for the Obama campaign
There was not much chit-chat as everyone’s eyes were glued on the suspended television set awaiting Obama’s speech that was screened live all over the world..
Alice Tuza, from Rwanda, was the most animated of the group, “Why aren’t you guys excited? You are disappointing me ” she exclaimed throwing her hands in the air.
Tuza seeking to reduce the groups anticipation sang Born in Africa to the tune of Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A as it played at Denver’s Invesco Field right before Obama was scheduled to speak. Her singing and enthusiasm caught on, and soon those around her began to smile.
For Edith Mussukuya from Kenya, Obama’s political ascension gives her hope. “It gives true meaning to the saying that the sky is the limit. Who would have dreamed that a black man in America could come this far? It’s not just that, he did not come from a wealthy background either.”
This was not a crowd that supported Obama, just because he is of African descent. They were well aware of his policies as well as those of Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain. They are budding democrats.
Ben Nwoekecha from Nigeria was especially critical of McCain’s policies. Nwoekecha feels that McCain is far removed from the realities of life for many Americans. “I am glad he [Obama] took note that McCain called us whiners,” he exclaimed. “How can you say that to people who want a better way of life? He does not understand us because we do not make 5 million dollars” he said to Tuza.
The gathering at Klub Afrika took on heightened emotions as Obama’s speech intensified; what was slight head bobbing was now aggressive nodding. Smiles soon turned into laughter and slight waving of hands became fist pumping and clapping.
“At some point it’s like he is filled with the Holy Ghost,”commented Mussukuya.
When Obama referenced Martin Luther King, a very emotional John Enwesi jumped up and shouted, “This is what I’m talking about ”
Mussukuya exclaimed in agreement, “Yes Yes ”
At the end of the speech, Enwesi hugged himself and said “I’m gonna cry ”
He paused to reflect on this historic significance of Obama’s nomination, “Jesse Jackson had tried, but they never took him serious because he never pushed ahead, but look at Obama This is a dream come true and what is more impressive is that he is a descendant of the continent.”
“It raises the stakes for Africans in that as much as we are in the dogs, we can produce great leaders and are a capable people,”chipped in Mussukuya.
Abalo, who has worked closely with the candidate’s campaign, feels that Obama’s success has broken barriers and will help Africans build more confidence in themselves.
“Black people tend to limit themselves,” he remarked. “I couldn’t believe my ears when my cousin in Atlanta suggested that Obama should take the vice presidency and leave the presidency for Clinton ” he exclaimed.
According to Nwoekecha, support for Obama does not end should he be elected as president. “We will continue to work with and empower the grassroots as we have been,” he stated.
“When Obama becomes president I hope he will not give money to African governments like other leaders have done, because the money never gets to the people who actually need it,” said Tuza. “I would rather he created opportunities for Africans to get a good education in the U.S and then return home and better their countries.”
Mussukuya is convinced that an Obama presidency would be good influence on African leadership. “When Obama criticized Kenya on corruption they attacked him without knowing that he would go this far, but should he win the election they would give his criticism more thought. Obama being a descendant of African may make African leaders more receptive to his suggestions,” she noted.
In the end all agreed that there will be massive rejoicing should Obama be declared victor in the November presidential elections.
Tuza is ecstatic about Obama’s potential victory in the elections, “The day he wins …. people will dance, people will really celebrate, people will sing …. Do you know how much people have been waiting for this? Eh eh eh eh eh eh eh.”