Harlem Voters Watch, Wait, Hope to Celebrate
By Keith B. Richburg
NEW YORK -- On the main commercial streets of Harlem, black America's cultural capital, the vendors' tables are stacked Barack Obama T-shirts and buttons. Some with his face. Some with his wife, Michelle. Some with Obama juxtaposed next to the image of Martin Luther King.
The vendors don't seem to be doing much business; in Harlem, it seems, almost everyone is already sporting an Obama button or shirt.
There is a heady air of anticipation in Harlem. Metal risers have been set up for a huge outdoor celebration outside the federal building named for Harlem's other political icon, the late congressman Adam Clayton Powell.
And many Harlemites, who lined up early to vote, say they believe this will be a day of divine reckoning.
"He was divinely sent," said 66-year-old Wayne Tyree, who was wearing a dozen Obama buttons on his cap and another pinned to his lapel for good measure. He said Hurricane Ike, which disrupted the Republican convention, and the financial collapse were all part of a divine plan. "Everything fell for Obama," he said.
Tyree added, "I'm 66 -- I've been waiting for change all my life."
"He's another Martin Luther King," said 75-year-old Mary Wallace, who got up early to vote when the polls opened. "God is good," she added.
Henry Greene, 83, came to New York from North Carolina in 1946. "I can remember black people wasn't allowed to vote," he said, after casting his vote early for Obama. "Black people were just as good as white people, they're just as smart as white. But they never had a chance to prove it."
Greene said he never dreamed he'd see a black man as president, but added, "I'm just about to see it."
Harlemites noted that another of their own, David Paterson, this year became New York's first black governor. "Just like our governor now," Greene said. "I never thought I'd see that either."
There was also a small amount of apprehension. "I'm worried about Pennsylvania. And I'm worried about Florida," said 86-year-old Millard Paul.
Paul was seated on a park bench, leaning on his cane, reflecting. "I'm just sitting here thinking about Obama being president and how it's going to be," he said.
Washington Post editors
November 4, 2008; 1:37 PM ET
Categories: A_Blog , The Voters
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