Oba-joyed!

By Vanessa Kortekaas

img_00131Obama mania swept across southeast London in the early hours of Wednesday morning, as Barack Obama was declared the first black president of the United States.

Southwark residents at the Anchor pub cheered as the results came in. “This will change the face of politics,” said James Harvey, 23. “We’ve got a mixed race chap who’s fulfilled the American dream. People here are getting the feeling that things are changing.”

Rosie Mcleod, a 25-year-old social researcher, said: “I think he holds the promise of inspiration. This makes me want to re-engage with the US.”

Less impressed with the results was James Hadden, a chartered surveyor. He said: “This is nuts. Obama is too young and inexperienced. I don’t really care [about the results] but I do think black people everywhere will suddenly be in favour of the US.”

At Goldsmiths college in New Cross, people were jubilant at the outcome. Over 100 students congregated in the Student Union to take part in the action. Last week the International Society held a mock US presidential election: 420 students voted for Obama and only 15 for McCain.

Students cheered wildly at 4:00am when Obama broke through the winning threshold of 270 electoral votes.

“I don’t know much about his policies but the fact that he’s black means a lot historically, and to me as a young black woman […] we’re so used to seeing white presidents” – Leona Butler, student.

After the celebrations people speculated on the effects this might have on the UK’s political landscape. Lewisham councillor Paul Maslin said: “People feel more positive about what politics can achieve. The importance of grass-roots politics will increase.”

The Labour councillor admitted, “We have always been more concerned with affecting large organizations like trade unions, but this shows us what can be done at a national level to influence individuals […] in the past we thought you couldn’t affect local groups.”

Southwark resident Annex Achieng is from Kogelo, the Kenyan village where Obama’s late grandmother lived. She predicted the results would bring hope to local school children. The former schoolteacher said: “He is just the kind of mentor that black school boys need in their lives. He is the perfect example of what we try and teach kids today.”

Achieng, 28, said she was also inspired by Obama’s life story. “I am going to be the mother of a mixed race child and Obama’s story is a guide for me. I am buzzing right now, he is the face of change and whether or not he succeeds as president, at least now there’s hope. This is a celebration of our child, even though he’s far away.”

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