Although historic for the entire nation, Barack Obama’s ascension to the pinnacle of American government was especially poignant for the 34 percent of Brooklynites who are listed in the latest Census as black/African-American.
And from the predominantly black neighborhoods of Prospect Heights and Fort Greene, to the West Indian immigrant neighborhoods of Canarsie and Flatbush, to the hard-scrabble Coney Island public housing developments, the mood on election day was one of jubilation and pride.
“It’s hard to articulate the way I feel. I never thought we would see a day like this, never in my wildest dreams,” said James Caldwell, 57, who was born into a sharecropper’s family in North Carolina, but now lives in Prospect Heights.
“I remember it was big when David Dinkins was elected as a black mayor, but to have a black president, this is a totally different category – to have a black person, probably in the next few hours, be the next president of the United States of America and be the most powerful man in the world,” he added.
Caldwell noted that blacks only make up about 12 percent of the country’s population, and credited the younger post-Civil Rights whites, who galvanized behind Obama’s take on issues and message of hope, instead of the color of the skin.
“The question of race will always play some type of part [in America], but for now it will give a lot of people hope that we never had before. Especially young black males, who now may say, ‘Hey, he can do it, maybe I can do something now in the community,’” he said.
On Bedford Avenue, Lisa Graves, a Flatbush resident, hung up a poster reading ‘Vote or Die,’ and said she did it to make sure people understand the importance of this particular campaign.
“Things are so bad with everybody. Some people just need a push and I think this gives them one,” said Graves.
“I never thought I would ever see a black president, but the fact of the matter is it’s more than an African-American thing. It’s your pension, your jobs, the energy. We just need a change. Let’s try it. Try it and we can always change it. That’s what the Constitution says,” she added.
At Canarsie High School, only one voting machine was working, and many residents were disappointed they had to put paper ballots in a box. However, they also cast their votes with pride.
“It’s an absolute wonderful day,” said Thelma Mighten, an American citizen originally from Jamaica via Canada.
“Only in America. I have lived here 25 years and now my children know they can grow up to be President. Even if [Obama] doesn’t make it, look how far he’s come. I’m just overjoyed, but I just wanted the machine to work,” she added.