For blacks, excitement and anxiety

Local radio personality Bea Thompson had time to kill before the public forum so she told the arriving crowd a story about the strong emotions Barack Obama evokes among African Americans.

Thompson recalled how upset her mother became when she visited a public library and heard another woman tell someone she would not vote for Obama.

“My mother called her everything but a child of God,” Thompson told 30 or so people gathered at a discussion on Race, Gender and Politics at the Afro-American Cultural Center uptown. “Mother was born in 1930 South Carolina. My mama doesn't cuss so it took her a long time to find those words.”

Obama's historic campaign enjoys overwhelming support from African Americans excited about the possibility of the nation's first black president.

The sentiment was evident among the almost entirely black audience.

One man told the crowd he believes Obama was touched by God. “He is anointed,” he said.

“All of our lives we voted for other candidates,” said Maxine Eaves, past president of the Mecklenburg chapter of the League of Women Voters. “On Nov. 5, we will be on high.”

Two speakers injected a more sobering note. Kerry Haynie, a Duke University political science professor, said he is bothered Obama has not visited any of the state's historically black colleges while campaigning.

“The Democrats have learned the more they identify with blacks, the more they lose,” Haynie said. “One would have thought he would behave somewhat differently.”

Gregory Mixom complained that Obama has distanced himself from blacks. Mixom, who teaches history at UNC Charlotte, said he was somewhat disappointed Obama didn't name a black running mate.

“My friends are always pointing out ‘he has to do it this way,'” Mixom said. “When can we be who we are without hiding?”

A man in the crowd stood up and agreed. “If you are a black politician,” he said, “you should represent black issues. You never abandon your roots.”

Many in the crowd bristled. They said the candidate's background – son of Kenyan father and white mother from Kansas – allows him to appeal to all races. In short, they said, that's what takes to get elected.

“He doesn't have to tell me he's black,” Hasaah Kirkland said. “I can see that he's black.” Fred Clasen-Kelly