Obama Victory: For U. Maryland Black Students, A Historic Journey

This story was written by Kyle Goon, The Diamondback


Tuesdaynight, as more than 100 University of Maryland students in Nyumburu Cultural Center collectively held their breath, history was made.

"Three... Two... One..." students counted while watching CNN projections seconds before 11 p.m.

"BREAKING NEWS: BARACK OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT," the screen read.

Instantly, the room erupted with screams, as leaping students embraced one another, laughing and crying.

Black and other minority and multiracial students who watched the election results last night celebrated President-elect Barack Obama's (D) historic victory. Many students said they thought they would never see a black man become president and were exceptionally proud for the country that Obama, the nation's first biracial candidate, won the election.

"I never thought I'd see this in my lifetime," Pan-Hellenic Council President Awnya Frazier said as tears leaked out of her eyes. "Now, I'm only 21 years old, and we have the first black president of the United States of America. I'm overwhelmed."

Many students lost their inhibitions in their jubilation.

"This is the best feeling in the world," junior criminal justice major Matthew Wynter shouted as he jumped on the backs of his friends. "Our president is black!"

Multiracial and Biracial Student Association President Erica Franklin said the familial background she shares with Obama allowed her to connect on a personal level with the president-elect.

"It's incredible to me that someone who's like me, with a black father and a white mother, is the president," she said. "Not that it made me disregard the issues, but it's cool. It's something we wouldn't have imagined 27 months ago."

But one common agreement even among the most enthused celebrants was that, despite Obama's victory, racism still exists in the United States.

Senior art major Brandon Richardson was elated by Obama's election, but said he calmed down when he reminded himself that the struggle for equality and racial harmony is not over.

"It's a milestone, not the finish," he said. "People look at Barack Obama as a messiah to solve their problems, but it starts with yourself. People need to not be complacent and still push him to meet their needs."

African Student Association President Desta Anyiwo said he fears minorities will develop a false sense of security, while whites will believe equality has been achieved. Anyiwo said he believes electing a black president will do no more to end racism in the United States than electing Indira Gandhi, India's first and only female prime minister, did to end sexism there.

"America has taken a step in the right direction, but it's not over. There's a long, tough road ahead," he said. "Change never happens from the top, down - it happens from the bottom, up."

However, the spirit of the night was overwhelmingly uplifting and poignant. Between loud chants of "O-BA-MA," several people sang "We Shall Overcome." Many students openly wept, as others stared in awe at the screen after an initial outburst of joy.

Even sophomore government and politics major Saba Gyemfi, a black Republican, said she would take a small bit of pride in Obama's victory. She watched the election unfold at a Black Political Student Association Party in Tydings Hall as she playfully traded barbs with friends.

"Even though I voted for McCain, no matter what happens in the morning, Obama did a great job and connected a lot of people," Gyemfi said. "I never believed it would be possible to vote for a black candidate in my lifetime."

Eventually, the crowd at the Nyumburu Center headed toward McKeldin all and joined a raucous group of Obama supporters, made up of all different races and backgrounds, huddled and chanting together. Wanika Fisher, the president of the campus's chapter of the NAACP, said Obama's message is special to everyone, not just people of color.

"He showed us that, no matter what race you are or who you are, if you want to change this country, you can do it," Fisher said. "It's actually just like a dream."

goondbk@gmail.com
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