Wednesday, November 5, 2008

St. Mark's Place Celebrates Obama's Victory (with photos and video)

Last night, around 11 PM Eastern Standard Time, Barack Obama was decidedly declared the 44th President of the United States as McCain conceded defeat on national television.

Watching in a bar off Avenue A between 2nd Street and Houston called Kelly's, I sat stunned, not quite ready to celebrate. This is what our system has done to me: turned me into even more of a skeptic than usual, doubting that anything CNN tells me could possibly be completely true, not yet ready to celebrate for fear that we would have another incident like in 2000. But looking down in the corner at the electoral votes, glancing around at the elated faces of my friends and fellow beer drinkers, hearing shouts of exuberance and the sound of horns honking flowing incessantly in from the streets, I knew it had to be true. And I couldn't help it, but tears came to my eyes.

Our nation had elected its first African-American President. And I had voted for him. And he was now MY president.

This night was, indeed, an historic event. Not only will Obama's be the first black family to live in the White House, but this marks the end of one of the longest presidential races in the history of our country, and an election with one of the largest voter turn outs to date.

Everyone can easily recount for a friend where they were when they first heard about 9/11. My mother's generation can tell us youngsters what their living room smelled like when they found out Kennedy had been shot. I will never forget listening to Obama's acceptance speech, which, not surprisingly, brought tears to my eyes again. Perched on the end of a pool table shifting my eyes back and forth from any of the 8 different TVs in the bar, I applauded. I nodded. I repeated "Yes, we can" after he said it. And for the first time in a long time, I felt that I was a part of something. That my generation can actually do something.

Yes, we can.

This phrase will no doubt go down in history books next to Four score and seven years ago and I have a dream. And the things this man could do for our country are virtually endless. He will change the face of this nation. I have hope; after tonight, I really believe. As a friend of mine said tonight, "optimism is certainly contagious."

After Kelly's Bar I walked with some friends up Avenue A in the direction of home just to see where the night would take us. After only 6 blocks, we hit St. Mark's Place (also called 8th Street for all you Angelinos out there). I couldn't have asked for a better situation to stumble upon:
Along with hearing Obama's speech as I sat on that pool table, I will never in my life forget dancing in the middle of the street like a lawless heathen as police attempted to clear the road for cars. The photo above was taken from atop a dumpster on the south side of St. Marks before infiltrating the street with my friend Arthur.

Obviously, the police attempts to clear the streets were fruitless. I got pushed to the side by one slightly, but as soon as the officer would pass someone would break out of the squished line, and suddenly everyone was blocking traffic again. A few cabs tried to make it down the street, and we moved aside to let them through. None of the cabbies seemed too upset; they understood the implications this election held, and had no problem allowing us to go ahead with our celebration.

The cops eventually gave up, and what ensued afterward was dancing, chanting, singing and hugging the likes of which I've never before poured my entire heart into. If you look at the video I've posted at the end of this entry, you can see the balcony on which several people were leading the crowd in a sing along, also where all the music was coming from (Hot Chip, MIA, Queen, Biggie, MGMT, and some 60's hits that I can't remember exactly at this moment).

I don't think I've ever danced like such an idiot, and felt so free about doing so. My friends brought up how un-American this was, how this is what countries do when their team wins the World Cup, what Third World countries do when their leader of choice is elected to office. Do you remember stories of people running, dancing, cheering through the streets when Clinton was elected?

So, remember the car nestled amongst the sea of people from the first image? Well, several people decided to stand on it to take photographs, and...
killed it.

Besides that, I didn't see any other damage. It wasn't a dangerous, angry riot; more like a free-loving spiritual demonstration, which is why I think the cops eventually laid off and resorted to instead setting up barricades at First Ave. to keep cars away from the situation.

It's now almost 5 in the morning as I sit with legs that just couldn't walk any further, a throat sore and hoarse from chanting, yelling and excitedly talking, a body that knows it has to be up for class tomorrow, but somehow none of this matters. Somehow, in the course of a single day, optimism has filled my brain, my emotions, my outlook on the future. And I will either sleep soundly with that thought, or possibly stay up all night from the excitement, a kid before their first trip to Disneyland, a citizen who is just as anxious for 1.20.09 as I am for visiting California in December, an American who can say her country has made her proud for the first time in her adult life.


Princess Leah said...

"We are the champions...of the world" indeed. And the world phoned us last night. Right after CNN called the election, our phone rang off the hook for David--Israel calling, Ireland calling, London calling (heh), China calling all to say 'Good on ya' to David and, by proxy, to America. How lovely that we have the chance to reclaim our standing in the world. And, as David is no doubt likely to tell you at least once over the coming weeks, he called this four years ago.

Princess Leah said...

Oh, and we can be happy that it seem like the elusive 'youth vote' finally appeared for this election.

Adam & Zach both told their Dad that the civil rights movement was started by his generation. David pointed out that your generation most certainly took it to the next level.