African immigrants and Barack Obama

The World

Of course not every immigrant from Africa is for Barack Obama. �I think I will be voting for Edwards,� this woman is an American social worker, originally from Kenya, the birthplace of Obama’s father. But that heritage doesn’t sway her, �I will vote for Edwards because there’s the 1.1 million rich people in the world and there’s the one trying to destroy Kenya. Personal interests of people are taking over the world.� There are no poll numbers that show that African immigrants lean one way or another in this democratic primary but bring Obama up on Fulton Street near the Franklin Avenue stop of the C-train and people get excited. �We wish he can win it,� this man sits at an old industrial sewing machine at the back of a West African clothing store, stitching zig-zags onto a priest’s robe. He’s from Senegal, not a citizen so he can’t vote. But he says he’s been watching Obama on CNN and thinking about his three American children, �My young child, he’s four. He’s asking me about him and I say, yeah his father comes from Africa. But if you want to be the president, you can do whatever you want to do, you can do it.� �It’s very inspiring to see an immigrant climb up to the highest position,� this man is across the street at his elegant internet and insurance business, holding his excitement to a whisper so as not to disturb customers at cubicles made of carved mahogany panels. He is an American from Sudan and shows an Obama sign in his window, �I think the more he advances, the better for immigrants especially of African descent. They can see themselves as part of the system, they can identify with America.� Zig zagging back across the street to a Senegalese restaurant. There are stews, cabbage and hearty chunks of meat. An inspired 21 year old runs the cash register. She says, �I hope he’s going to win the election.� She says she wasn’t sure the American dream was possible before a few weeks ago, �I was not really sure, 100%.� But she sees Obama’s recent success as a sign, �Because they say America is a free country, mixing cultures and everything, African and black, we all have the same right and everything. It really means that.� One of the cooks is taking her break at the table, leaning her head against the tile wall with her hair tucked under white plastic. She’s enthusiastic too but she’s 45 and she hasn’t lost track of her inner cynic. She is from Burkina Faso and she says, �We’re sure he’s going to win! Sure, except that someone’s likely to put a few banana peels in his path.� But barring that she continues, �We’re sure he can and will win.� This man chimes in saying, �There will be obstacles to Obama’s success, history has demonstrated that. We’re calling successful efforts to invalidate the ballots of black voters in Florida in 2004. if that’s repeated it won’t be a surprise.� Both say the Republicans will get in the way of Barack and Hillary but then the man says he’s not sure Black Americans will let Obama become the Democratic candidate. To which the chef replies, it’s the whites who have to let him succeed, and then they debate the proportion of blacks and whites among Obama supporters. In any case, the man says, we demand they let him succeed. It begins to rain outside, and Muslims coming from prayer outside the local mosque cram into a money transferring agency next door. This Mauritanian immigrant says he was surprised that so many white people voted for Obama in Iowa, �In the media they say they’ll not vote for him and in the end they vote him, the people who are educated. Maybe he will be the Democrat in the race for president.� Maybe says this woman in a quiet hair salon around the corner. Hardly looking up from the dark brown extensions she’s braiding into her customer’s hair, she says, �in politics, Black people are always behind. All the way to the White House? That’s going to be hard.�

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