Obama's "homecoming." Presdent's return to South Los Angeles sparks memories of Election Night 2008

It was just over two years ago that I found myself in the middle of history.

For the common man you don’t get to be in a spot like that very often. And rarely do you realize the importance of the history while it’s happening. But being in the right place and the right time, with a little bit of reporter’s intuition (or plain old common sense), is all it took to be part of something that I will tell my grandchildren about.

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My wife, Alyson, and I were watching the returns in November of 2009 roll in and switching from TV station to station (just like in 2000) and checking the internet as the map turned blue. I was worried (just like in 2000) but certain that nothing could stop Barack Obama from taking the presidency. And he did so with such a majority.

As soon as it was called and we were sure that Obama won, we put on gloves and scarves and our L.A. winter coats and walked less than a mile to the Soul of Los Angeles, Leimert Park.

The Leimert Park Village, restaurants and jazzy, blues and world music venues, has a beautiful tree-lined city park at the southern tip, an iconic fountain at its center. I knew that was the place to be – the African American cultural center of Los Angeles.

As we arrived, the first man I passed told me “Congratulations” with a big smile and he shook my hand. Already a few hundred gathered as small groups broke out singing and shouting things like “Yes We Did,” “Free at Last,” “Change We Can Believe In.

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Crenshaw was crushed in traffic as passengers hung out windows to high five people cheering on the sidewalks.

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So many now celebrating had lost so many battles, not in some far off past, but in their lifetime. And here a black man was going to be president. People wept.


A few days later the LA Times even came a did a great video of Leimert Park resident reading Obama’s acceptance speech Of course Obama has had a history with L.A., like the time he came to Leimert Park’s EsoWon Bookstore to sign copies of “Dreams From My Father” and only nine people showed up. But that didn’t stop him from coming back or believing that he could be president.

Back in 2007, it did seem to take a while for people in this area to openly support Obama. Maybe the election was so far off. Maybe the dream had been deferred so many times. But by Election night, Obama had become a fashion icon, as dozens and dozens wore shirts with his visage. Hundreds more would descend on Leimert Park during the night in an impromptu display of joy.
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And today his image can be found everywhere, not just in murals or even portraits. But on skateboards, as part of graffiti and on posters with an Afro, much like JFK when I was growing up. A little more than a year after Obama took office, and that glow hasn't worn off.

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Sure the economy is just barely bouncing back, and everyone would have liked a better health care bill, err LAW. But the business owners in the Leimert Park Village seem to have weathered the storm and they are more resolved than ever to sell books, make coffee, promote art and culture. Plus more people will have health care now. Check another task off the list, but revisit ASAP. So things are pretty good, better than they've been in ages. The murals are still up and people still wear the shirts that bear the image of the President of the United States. Definitely patriotic.

Obama’s back again today for a fundraiser in Exposition Park at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Science Center (updated - Thanks to LaObserved.com). I wish he could stop by USC and CAAM and the EXPO Center and the 24th Street Theater (though nothing is planned) and maybe I would run into him. Maybe I’ll just see his limo.



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Comment by 24th Street Theatre on April 19, 2010 at 10:14am
We wish he would stop by 24th ST too!! :)

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