Brian Knowles has spent the last three months preparing for his trip down to Washington, D.C., to attend the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama.
The Mattapan resident said he knew in early October that Obama, then the Democratic Party’s nominee, was going to win on Election Day. So he started to book travel and accommodation arrangements, ahead of other Obama supporters.
Last Friday, he was among the lucky Internet users to go online and snag free tickets to a prime viewing spot along the inauguration route. For Knowles — who canvassed for Obama by text-messaging his New Hampshire colleagues, whom he said were easily persuaded — making the trip is worth all the trouble in the world.
“I am so amazed to be part of history,” Knowles said. “I feel so honored to make it down to D.C. and see the first black president take office. This is a memory I will share with my children and grandchildren for years to come.”
Knowles is one of many Bostonians of color who contributed their time, effort and votes to helping Obama win the White House and plan to celebrate the fruits of their labor when he takes office on Jan. 20. Since Election Day, many of these “Obamaholics” have spent hours thinking about what an Obama administration will mean to them in the near future.
Alexandra Olma, an eighth-grade student at Maurice J. Tobin School in Roxbury, won an all-expenses paid trip to attend the inauguration ceremony in Washington with her grandmother for an essay that she wrote on the significance of Obama’s election.
The 14-year-old wrote that at first, she didn’t understand the excitement over Obama’s candidacy. But after speaking to her openly gay friend and her Puerto Rican sister about the discrimination that they have experienced in their lives, she said she felt empowered to encourage other people old enough to get out the vote for the man she believes would bring people from different backgrounds together.
“I think I want to be more politically active when I get older, and support people who are the underdogs,” Olma said. “I am so impressed and engaged by Barack that when I turn 18, I can’t wait to vote.”
Shawn McGuffey, a professor of African American studies and sociology at Boston College, and his boyfriend, Scott Knox, also plan to attend several inaugural parties in Washington this weekend. Both men worked as Obama campaign volunteers for the Wards 11 and 19 Democratic committees, which represent Jamaica Plain, Roxbury and Roslindale.
McGuffey said he is hopeful that the dawn of an Obama administration will lead to more serious discussions about race in America, as well as more dialogue about eradicating homophobia throughout the country.
Despite claims from some quarters that Obama’s election signals the end of significant racial division in the U.S., McGuffey said he doesn’t feel convinced that all Americans are “post-racial.”
“I fear that now that we have a black president, people will think affirmative action is no longer needed,” McGuffey said. “Racism is not over, and there is still much more work to be done.”
While many said they plan to celebrate the racial progress that comes with Obama’s election, others said they hope the president-elect will hit the ground running next week to deal with the nation’s most pressing issues.
Like many Americans, Heidi Brooks said she thinks the economic downturn and the ongoing war on terror need to be top priorities on Obama’s agenda right now.
“The economy and the problems in Gaza have to be number one for him,” Brooks said. “He needs to make the right decisions on those issues.”
Brooks, who is the director of community relations for John Hancock Financial Services, also did canvassing for Obama in New Hampshire during the campaign. She also co-hosted, with Stephanie Anderson, chief corporate spokesperson for Osram Sylvania, an Obama fundraiser back in October that collected $47,000.
“I got involved in Obama’s campaign because I wanted to be on the right side of history,” Brooks said.
Brooks said she will stay in Boston next Tuesday to attend an inaugural gala hosted by The Partnership Inc., a group of politically active young professionals of color who were also inspired by the president-elect’s message of “change.”
That message — and the connected idea that everyday people, too, can be agents for social change in their own communities — left a lasting impression on many Obama supporters. For his part, Mattapan resident Knowles said he was so inspired by Obama that he actually applied for a job in the new administration on the transitional Web site, www.change.gov.
Knowles said he hopes that his information technology background can help him stand out among applicants, as Obama has vowed to make technological innovation key in his tenure. If he doesn’t get a job in Washington, he said he wants to continue teaching computer skills to youth of color.
“Maybe I can inspire one of my students to be the next Barack Obama,” he said.
Greater Boston residents looking for a place to celebrate next Tuesday’s historic inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama but unable to make the trip down to the nations’ capital have a bevy of options right here at home. More »
The Massachusetts National Guard’s newly organized and designated 54th Volunteer Regiment (Selected Honor Guard) will carry its proud lineage to Washington, D.C., to march in President-elect Barack Obama’s inaugural parade on Jan. 20. The historic predecessors of today’s unit — the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the nation’s first all-African American military regiment — earned fame for fighting for the North during the Civil War. More »
Six Banner readers share their plans for the historic day. More »