pos and i headed down to grant park around 7 or so, taking the el to the loop and walking. have no fear, capitalism is alive and well: there were people selling obama t-shirts, pins, towels, bracelets, glow necklaces, flags, etc, every ten feet. i liked the black shirt with the white american flag printed on it with the words "my president is black." we walked up roosevelt to michigan avenue, where there was a very strong police presence, mostly standing and watching the throngs of people. they had flexi-cuffs on hand in case we started to riot. i liked walking past the johnson publishing company building - they publish jet and ebony - and see their awesome framed obama covers. the mood in general was excited and chill.
we had to access the park through the congress street entrance, near buckingham fountain. there were supposedly two lines, one for ticketholders and one for those without. the crowds of folks just trying to get to congress to cross the bridge into the park was giant and there were people joining the lines so constantly that all i could see were people. we ended up running into my friend jw and his wife so we stood in line with them and slowly inched our way across the bridge. one check-point person looked at pos' ticket and the crowds were held back by police on horses, so it was slow-going. everyone in the crowd was checking online and texting to find out the latest election returns. when we found out that obama had won pennsylvania, everyone started screaming and jumping and cheering. some guy ahead of me was streaming cnn on his phone and held it up for me to watch. as we made our way closer, we found out about ohio, and it was more collective good cheer and excitement. the second check-point was a dude waving me through when i opened my handbag for inspection, and a woman looking at pos' drivers license and ticket. that was it for security. i was sure that there would be metal detectors, wands, pat-downs. i guess 175,000 people was too many to search.
when we were finally able to get into the park itself (mounted police were good at staggering the crowds), a bunch of people broke into mad sprints to get close. at this point, probably 8:00 or so, a fence had been erected to help divide the field and allow for police to walk through. the field was a quagmire of people, fences, distant tents lit up where i assumed media and VIPs were, and a giant screen for us to watch cnn. we lost jw in the initial jockeying for position, but pos and i ended up wandering around and meeting up with other friends. the crowd was courteous, friendly, excited and energetic. it felt like we were at the largest-ever tv-watching event. i liked how the screen would cut to a normal "election night 2008" image when cnn would break for commercials. whenever mccain would win a state like arkansas or whatever, everyone would boo. and the obama numbers kept piling up. it became quite clear, after pennsylvania and ohio and HOLY SHIT, florida too, that obama would be winning. but then he won virginia, and everyone got really excited and hushed and waiting, and right around 10:00 cnn flashed a screen that said "barack obama elected president" and everyone went apeshit, hugging and crying and screaming and jumping and laughing.
we had about an hour to kill before obama came out to speak. we watched mccain's concession speech, which actually riled up a lot of people around me. he was doddering on about how this was such a momentous event for black people, and people were yelling at the screen "it's not about that!!!" i was standing next to an older black man and his white ladyfriend, and when mccain was talking he just kept shaking his head and saying "for everyone. this is for everyone."
we got to dance a lot, as they kept piping in songs to keep us occupied. stevie wonder, some motown, some country (barf). i wish there had been bands and shit. a preacher came out and delivered a nice prayer, a woman came out and sang the national anthem (i think she got some of the words mixed up) and some guy came out and led the pledge of allegiance. i couldn't tell you the last time i did the pledge; high school maybe? and then the next president of the united states, barack hussein obama, came out and spoke, and he is such a beautiful speaker, one who inspires millions of people to feel like someone out there does care that you are alive and struggle and have to make choices and are fed up with the past eight years of insults and bullshit, and you want someone who you can look at and be happy with the idea that "you speak for me - you represent me - and i am proud of you and proud of america."obama's speech is here, in case you ever want to go back and read it.
and we clapped and shouted and cried and i said to pos (kidding) "now we can have a baby" and it was amazing to feel like you were a part of something historical, beautiful and healing.
oh, and pos spotted bill ayers on the way out. i looked him up online later and that was indeed him. he was in the field with all of the other excited chicagoans. no special VIP access for him.
"If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer."