The Obama victory was jubilantly celebrated in Washington DC (sometimes referred to as Chocolate City). I was there for the Clinton victory over Bush1, but that was a quaint tea party compared to this wild bumping throw-down. I squeezed myself into the downtown Bohemian Caverns, an African American-run club. Throbbing with people packed on three floors grooving to the DJ’s funk/african tracks, they cheered watching the CNN visuals of Obama’s march across the nation. In the first floor restaurant that had a more sophisticated clientele than the college-age crowd in the nightclub, bartenders were leading call-response chants of “O!” “Bama!” When the media declared him the winner, the joint went bedlam. The bartenders jumped on the bar spraying us with champagne as people were simply deliriously euphoric.
Outside, U Street became the tribal gathering point as thousands jammed and danced in the streets in joy, accompanied by the honking of cars and their sound systems. Strangers come up to me high-fiving or hugging. It was still rocking when I left there at 2:30 am. The streets around the White House drew thousands more who gathered to celebrate and evict Bush. I’ve never seen this city so happy, nor so loud after midnight.
Why? Why were people crazy happy then? Something huge had happened. There was the joy that America could really elect a black man for president – the same America that enforced race laws until only a few years ago, and still practices race discrimination and hatred. Many had been scared that the Republicans would steal yet another election (Lord knows they tried). Ending eight years of Bush neo-fascism also primed the celebration. For blacks, it was more than just a transcendental moment in their 400 year American history shared with others, it was intensely personal in a collective sense. I/we had crossed a raging river.
Obama, for all his problems (like his current pick of Zionists and right wing democrats to shape foreign policy) is unquestionably an extremely charismatic superstar who speaks of us rather than I. His mass rallies and now his victory featured his message that the cynicism of yesterday must be replaced by the hope and possibilities of our shared future. (See his brilliant speech on race: “A More Perfect Union” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zrp-v2tHaDo ). This is a message that I find to be radical in these fearful and reactionary times. For progressives, the window of opportunity to mobilize others to push Obama from the right back to the center or the left-of-center is now. It might close soon.
Here’s a link to a video of people doing the Electric Slide on U Street from music pumped out of an SUV: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scottmontreal/3096713361/
Here are some of the photos from that night of celebration: