Obama in the ‘Burg

Obama visits Harrisburg on March 30, 2008. Photo by Leon Laing.

Today marks the last day of Black History Month. We also celebrated President’s Day in February. With that said, we dug into our archives to repost our story about Obama’s visit to Harrisburg on March 30, 2008.

Prime time
With the Pennsylvania Democratic primary being two days away, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) have been scouring for votes in key areas. Harrisburg was no exception.

On March 29, Obama supporters lined Second and State streets and waited hours in the brisk morning for free tickets to a town hall meeting. Harrisburg resident Shauntay Jackson, 20, was one of the devotees who waited. This will be Jackson’s first time voting in the presidential election. “My family and I began waiting in line around 7:30 a.m.,” Jackson explained. “Originally, we were supposed to get two tickets per person, but the turnout was greater than expected, so we were given one ticket each…” “I finally got my ticket around 10 a.m., so all together I waited about three hours in the freezing cold.”

Obama held the town hall meeting on March 30 at The Forum, Harrisburg (He returned to downtown Harrisburg April 19, 2008, and spoke outside at the Capitol). Before the senator went on stage at The Forum, a pumped up college student began cheering. The crowd followed by shouting “yes we can (a slogan from Obama’s campaign)” and “O-bam-a!” A large American flag hung gracefully while facing the stage on the left side of auditorium.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who has endorsed Obama, helped to introduce the presidential candidate at the town hall meeting. “I believe the people want something different,” Obama affirmed. “They want straight talk.” Obama, 46, addressed the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war and the 4,000 lives lost since its inception.  “Even after I’m elected president, we’ll have a lot to do,” he said. If appointed, he plans to withdraw most troops within 16 months. He would keep some troops in Iraq to protect the embassy and diplomats. The senator also highlighted the country’s rising foreclosures. He told the audience that he blames some banks and predatory lenders.   How would Obama curb this problem? He hopes to create a fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosures.

In Vibe magazine’s September 2007 issue, Obama said, “rap is reflective of the culture of the inner city, with its problems, but also its potential, its energy, its challenges to the status quo.” Like Sen. Bob Casey, members of the rap community (including rap tycoon Russell Simmons) have been giving Obama props. Even actor Michael Kenneth Williams of HBO’s “The Wire” attended the town hall meeting in Harrisburg. Williams played Omar on “The Wire,” a series that covers the plight of the inner city.

 Mr. Blackston, an award-winning rap artist from Harrisburg who supports Obama, said he likes Obama’s stance on healthcare and “his willingness to be more open with other world leaders …” “I think he is the breath of fresh air that this country desperately needs,” Blackston explained. “Basically, it’s just time to try something new—even if he doesn’t have all the experience—maybe that’s a good thing.”

—Written by Leon Laing and edited by Maurice Boyer

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