Aja Gradyon Dantzler, 38, Kindred the Family Soul
We owned a small business called the Kulture Shop in an up-and-coming corridor of the city. We were one of just a few black businesses. It was struggling at the time because of the recession, but we decided to throw a party/concert to watch the 2008 presidential election results with the community. We had always done events at the shop, and this was a great opportunity for us to bring friends, the community, and other artists together. We knew it was historic whether Obama won or lost.
There were about 150 people. Lots of acts performed; there was poetry, hip hop, singing. When he won, it was pandemonium.
We poured out of the shop onto the street, blocking Baltimore Avenue. We danced and sang. I don’t even remember what songs we sang. It was a blur. We were just dancing. I don't remember anything ever like that in my life. I've never seen the entire community pour out into the streets. People were just excited. It was a massive expression of joy. The fact that we were in a country built on slavery and electing a black president -- it’s something that our parents and grandparents never thought they’d see. The moment itself gave you a feeling of hope. If this can happen here, anything is possible. It wasn’t just Obama; it was a collective win for all of us.
We were adults watching this; we were parents, voters; we were self-employed people paying a lot for health care, a middle-class family with kids not knowing how to pay for education. We’re black; we’re Muslim. All the issues that came up during his campaign were important to us.
We’ve watched L.A. burn, Rodney King and Amadou [Diallo], we watched eight years of George W. Bush. This was a win. I was excited and emotional. Grateful. I felt powerful.
We maintain that joy in knowing what we can accomplish and what we can do. It will happen again.