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Monday, March 10, 2008

On the Road For Obama - My Ohio Trip

Guy Djoken
Last March 1st, I was among a group of hundreds of people converging in Ohio from the four corners of the U.S. to claim a piece of history set in motion this year by the Obama campaign. The five hour trip from Frederick was relatively easy and smooth. We arrived at Youngstown a little around 11 am. After a quick lunch, we convened at the Obama Headquarter where I was surprise by the number of people in the room. The Hall contained hundreds of people who were dedicated to give what ever they had to secure Obama's win in the state.
Maryland and Washington, DC were well represented by a delegation that preceded us with two large buses. In the room I met people who came from as far as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Florida. The diversity in the Hall was gratifying. The demographics were about 50% Caucasian, 45% black and about 4% Hispanic and 1% Asian. After the welcome by the Staff, we received a quick training about the abc's of canvassing, a basic geography of the town and handed out a turf to canvas.
My partner who travelled with me decided to pair up and canvass together. We were dispatched throughout the city. Within two hours, we returned after knocking on hundreds of doors and getting people excited about our candidate. After 3 trips, we decided to call it a day and were directed to the home of our host, an Obama supporter who was kind enough to open her house to us. She was a professor at Youngstown State University. When we arrived, we were surprised to meet another Obama supporter who had arrived the day before from Virginia.
After another welcome ceremony, we began talking about the campaign and sharing the reason for our involvement in the campaign. I was surprised to learn that besides me, none of the 4 others ( 3 university teachers and one Doctor who was head of a research laboratory near Washington, DC) had ever been involved in a campaign before. For hours, we chatted about politics and life. Our host was able to give us a real synopsis of the area. After sharing our fear, hope and dreams, it was after 1:00 AM when we went to bed..

The next day we returned to the campaign headquarters and canvassed all day long. As we knocked on thousands of doors, it was depressing to see the number of houses that were emptied and abandoned all over the city. By the end of the day, it clear to me that the whole area has been facing a serious crisis. This area was run down and many dilapidated buildings were seen all over. The second night we had the pleasure of attending a rally during which Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick came out to address supporters and thank them for their effort to come out and be a part of the movement that will bring a real and positive change next November.

On Sunday, my partner and I were dispatched at the World Fellowship Church were we attended the service after a great and warm reception. After finding that I was a NAACP Leader, the church pastor, Rev. Larry B. McCulloh invited us to a special room in his church to show me all the NAACP Awards that were handed out by the national office to the Church founder who had passed away last October at the age of 105. She was an icon for the local NAACP Chapter and a champion of social justice and civil rights.

After church, we continued canvassing till sunset. Then we took part in a rally showcasing the contribution of African Americans in the town. Among the speakers was Mr. Jay Williams who attracted national and international attention since he became the city's youngest mayor and the first African-American to be elected mayor of Youngstown, Ohio in November 2005.

On March 4th, election Day, we braved the cold all day long by driving around town to make sure Obama supporters were going out to vote. On several occasions, we were able to give a ride to the those who did not have a ride to the polling place. We left Youngstown around 8:00 PM that night under a terrible rain, staying in touch with a friend who kept us posted as the results came in. Despite the 10 point lost of Obama in Ohio, I am proud to have made it to Ohio to witness first-hand what people are calling "Obamania" and realize that I was not the only crazy person! In fact I returned to Frederick knowing that I am just one of the common people, getting on the road for Obama's uncommon call.
Guy Djoken is President, NAACP, Frederick County Maryland Branch

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