Obama supporters have hope in Harlem
Posted Tuesday, November 4 at 07:28 pm CT by Marty Wolk
Filed under Field correspondents
Richard Crowder in Harlem (msnbc.com)
Roberto St. Louis isn't old enough to vote, but he’s still doing his part to help put Barack Obama in the White House. The 17-year-old was spending Election Day volunteering at Obama’s Harlem campaign headquarters on at 133rd Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard.
“My mind is thinking [Obama’s] spirit is so wonderful. He’s so direct,” Roberto said. “That’s what this country needs right now.”
The high school student said he felt was important to be part of the historic moment when the first black president could be elected to office, a moment that would not only change the country but his own life.
“It will open doors for me and other youth," he said.
More than skin color
“If you are only voting for Obama because he’s black, stay home.”
That was the advice Richard Crowder gave to voters from the bench in Obama headquarters as he took a break from volunteering.
“I hope people don’t vote for him just because he’s black. There’s so much more than skin color.”
An international impact
The most important issue for 52-year-old Congolese immigrant and Obama volunteer Yaalengi Ngemi is how the president will interact with the international community.
“People in Africa, Europe are looking to Obama. The whole world is looking to him because of his temperament and intelligence,” said Ngemi, a science teacher who has lived in the U.S. since 1976 and became a citizen in 1992.
“I believe Obama will be the kind of president to redirect the world from being divided, the way Bush has left it,” Ngemi said. "Obama has the judgment to know that countries have to work together.”
The power of people
Beth Thomas, a retired New York State employee, volunteered for Harlem For Obama as a coordinator.
The 59-year-old Harlemite says there have been more than 600 volunteers organized through this particular office, and about 200 have been working on Election Day.
“These are the people that could afford to take a day off from work to be here,” she said. Since the office opened in September, “people have been here well after midnight, working on weekends –- constantly and consistently -- to help us win," she said.
Melvin Nelson, 62, has been a volunteer for the Obama campaign for three months, and he said the Harlem office has registered almost 3,000 new voters -- including an 82-year-old woman who had never voted before.
Nelson said his support for Barack Obama actually began when he met Martin Luther King Jr. at a union event when he was a little kid.
"Barack Obama rejuvenated me," said the volunteer, who noted some similarities between the two leaders. "They both have the light in them, God within them. The word 'hope' is powerful. Hope means a lot -- without it, people vanish."
-- Jen Brown, Sarika Dani and Vidya Rao of msnbc.com