At 9:58 p.m., the anticipation that slowly swelled among a small group gathered at Afri-Ware bookstore in Oak Park burst into screams and applause as West Coast election results gave U.S. Sen. Barack Obama more than enough electoral college votes to become this nation’s first black president.
Obama garnered 338 electoral votes to best his Republican opponent John McCain. By night’s end, Obama would reach 349 while leading in swing state Virginia that was still too close to call.
Tears flowed as Afri-Ware’s stunned election night watchers stood still trying to absorb the history-making moment unfolding as California, Oregon and Washington flashed blue on a large projection screen. Broadview resident Darrin Brown had mixed emotions of excitement and disbelief over Obama’s win.
“It is unbelievable, because I didn’t think I would see this for another 200 years, but … it is happening in my lifetime,” the 49-year-old said. “It is somebody from our town. It is just amazing.”
Berwyn resident Kim Ellis added watching Obama clinch the presidency was a surreal experience.
“This is way more than just political for me. This is spiritual,” said the 39-year-old, referencing Obama’s victory in biblical terms: “That the bottom will come to the top.”
Ellis reflected on those who died and fought along side Dr. Martin Luther King to gain the right to vote during the Civil Rights Movement, a crusade, she stressed, that laid the groundwork for Obama’s run for president.
“I can just image how emotional it is for those who walked with Dr. King; just thinking about our ancestors and what (they) had to go through,” she said. “I feel honored right now to be living to see this. It is just like Dr. King said ‘I might not get there with you, but we will make it to the promise land.'”
Nzingha Nommo, owner of Afri-Ware, 266 Lake St., was pleasantly stunned by Obama’s win.
“This is a great first step. I couldn’t think of a better first step.”
Nommo explained Obama’s election represents more than just a “face change but a change in policy,” adding this country is often seen as the “bully of the world,” but Obama is the man to change that.
Emotions ran high throughout the night as election results slowly came in. Jovial screams and applause erupted around 8:20 p.m. when battleground state Ohio went to Obama after narrowly going for President George W. Bush in the 2004 election. It’s a state many political pundits said McCain had to nab to win the presidency.
Victory seemingly slipped farther away for the Arizona senator as Obama won New Mexico about nine minutes later. Other states began to fall in Obama’s corner: Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Iowa, Maine and Delaware. Obama flipped Florida and Colorado, states previously considered solidly Republican.
Casundria Fair, 16, of Westchester, stayed up to watch the results on a school night. Although she was unable to vote for Obama, she noted his election goes along way to mend race relations in this country.
“It is good to see that so many people are voting in support of a black man as president of our nation,” Fair said. “It’s good to see that we are all coming together as one and looking past race and color.”
Austin resident Michael Bracey, 50, echoed her sentiment. He attended Obama’s election rally in Grant Park where a crush of people waved American flags, cried and cheered as news reports called the election for Obama.
“The vibe downtown is unity. It is unified,” he said. “It’s all about what he represents. I think he has touched everybody; not just with his politics but his demeanor. He is just like one of us.”