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In Bowie, Obama Victory Brings Cheers and Tears

At the Bowie home of Robyn Mullen and Melvin Mitchell, Barack Obama's election as the nation's 44th president was greeted with cheers and tears.

"Oh, my goodness. Thank you, Lord!" shouted Carlotta Ashton, wiping away tears. "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"

As Obama delivered his victory speech, the couples in Bowie kept applauding and cheering. When he told the crowd, "as a people we will get there," the Bowie group yelled. "We will get to the promised land," echoing the words of Martin Luther King Jr.
After the speech, they clapsed hands. "Everybody grab somebody," Mullen shouted.

Everybody linked hands and told how they felt. "I'm so blessed and happy to be here with my family and friends and all the people I love. This is nothing but God's love because we couldn't have done this without him." Another woman said a prayer.

As they broke from the circle, one man said "Yes we can," and they all joined in the chant.

Mitchell grabbed Mullen in a tight embrace, as other couples also embraced. Nearby, Mullen's mother, Anita Clark, 75, who has voted in every election since Dwight Eisenhower ran, beamed at the celebration.

"This is good news!"

Mitchell, an executive with the IRS, said Obama's election realizes a dream for the country, but also for the nation's children.

"As an African American boy growing up in Southeast D.C. who had most of the guys I grew up with end up on drugs or in jail and who was told that 'You are the exception" if you did anything like go to college and get a good job, this means so much," he said. "I can now look at kids and say 'No more excuses...You can do anything.'

"We've been telling our children all along that they could do anything, but we really believe it. Neither did they. Now, they know they truly can do anything.We can say that to them. 'You can do anything. No more excuses.'"

Mullen, who is retired from the IRS, and Mitchell welcomed three dozen friends into their home to watch the election returns and celebrate They feasted on baked ham, deviled eggs, chili and sweet potato pie and a special red-white-and blue cake, all served up on red-white-and blue dishes. They sipped apple martinis, cosmopolitans and wine, danced the cha cha cha slide and talked about the changes that would come with Obama's election.

"I was very optimistic that Obama would win and I wanted to be around friends who felt the same way and we could all be joyful togehter in this historic moment," said Esther Thomas, of Capital Hill, a retired EEO specialist with the Department of Health and Human Services.

Mullen, who spent the night before the election baking pies for the event, recalled moments in her life when she had experienced racism. Her brother, Stewart Cumbo, 54, a Maryland State Police administrator, was elected to his third term on the Chesapeake Beach town council last night.

"I think Barack Obama will unite this country like it has never been united before and we need that," Mullen said.

As they listened to Obama's acceptance speech last night, they applauded at the end of every line.

--Avis Thomas Lester

By Phyllis Jordan  |  November 4, 2008; 11:47 PM ET
 
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