Friday, November 7, 2008

Obama’s victory electrifies North End

Wednesday, November 5, 2008 10:07 PM EST
By SLOAN BREWSTER, Press staff

MIDDLETOWN — Word on the street in the North End of town Wednesday was all happiness and downright pride in the election of Barack Obama.

"He showed that he’s not just there for black people," Middletown resident Judy Rollins said. "He’s here for everyone."

While she believes the president elect will be there for people of all races, Rollins also thinks he will cut through racial divides and bring the country a step closer to ending racism. She was not comfortable discussing her personal battles, but said all African Americans deal with bigotry.

"As a black person, we all experience it," Rollins said.

George Guiont, 59, remembers when civil rights changed life in the country, specifically in the south. In 1965, he was one of the first black children transferred to an all-white school in North Carolina.

He remained there only three weeks.

"I just got tired of the cranks, the ignorance," Guiont said. "I was full of hatred then."

Guiont lost his parents at a young age; his mother died when he was 7 and his father passed when he was 13. Their deaths left him angry and made it even more difficult to deal with racial tensions at school. He ended up dropping out.

But the man does not pass blame or expect the government, Obama or otherwise, to solve his problems.

"My life’s not going to change," he said. "I have to make a change."

Still, Giuont believes Obama will bring change to the country as a whole. He is particularly interested in seeing an end come to the war in Iraq.

Dorothy Goss, 73, also remembers the civil rights movement, though she experienced it in a different manner. The Westbrook resident lived in Essex in 1958 and was a landlord who rented to a black family — a decision many of her neighbors did not appreciate. They did not look too fondly upon her for her political actions either, especially when she participated in a civil rights march on Washington in 1968.

"I’ve been called the n-word-lover I don’t know how many times," Goss said.

During a telephone call to The Press Wednesday, Goss expressed excitement about Obama’s election.

"In my lifetime, I’ve never expected this to happen," she said. "I believe Obama will be great not because he’s a man of color, but because of who he is. He stands up for all people no matter who they are. To me, you have to love people for who they are and not what they take from society, but what they give society. Thank God I lived long enough to see a person of color become our president."

Between moments of elation and exclamations of glee, folks walking in the North End took a few moments to share ideas on which of Obama’s policies they most anticipate.

Rollins looks forward to seeing life improve for the middle class. "He’s starting with the middle," she said. "I think everyone else started out with the upper class. I’m very proud."

Rohanna Powells, an 18-year-old who voted for the first time Tuesday, believes Obama’s economic policies will benefit the country and is pleased with his plans for early childhood education.

Marsha Jean-Charles shares her co-workers thoughts on education — both young women work at the North End Action Team office.

"It’s about making sure schools are adequately funded and higher quality teachers," Jean-Charles said.

Jean-Charles, a student at Wesleyan University, said the campus grew loud with cheer when Obama was declared victorious.

"I personally was crying," she said.

NEAT Executive Director Izzi Greenberg said she was inspired by the number of people who came to Macdonough School Tuesday to learn about Obama and McCain. The organization set up a table and passed on information about both candidates. Greenberg was surprised and impressed by the number of people who came.

"The people who showed up, the wide variety of people who came, really blew me away," Greenberg said. "People were pumped."

While Greenberg said NEAT does not endorse any candidate, she said people in the North End seemed optimistic Obama would work on issues to benefit inner-city areas.

"A lot of people in the neighborhood are really excited," she said. "People of color are feeling really empowered."

Guiont shares the hopefulness.

"When you start talking about helping people, I’m down with that," he said. "When you start talking about lifting them up, everybody’s down with that."


© 2008, a Journal Register Property

No comments: