At D.C. Gathering, Cheering a Historic Moment

By Elissa Silverman and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

As it became increasingly clear last night that Sen. Barack Obama was on the verge of becoming the Democratic nominee for president, several people at a K Street watch party made it clear that they saw far more than the obvious: the unprecedented success of an African American presidential candidate.

Those at the gathering at kstreet lounge in Northwest Washington, which included people of many races and with much in common, educationally and professionally, with the candidate, did speak of the Illinois senator's race, but they spoke also of what they said were leadership qualities that transcended race.

"We haven't had anyone like him to really lead the black community -- and every community in America," said Jocelyn Franklin, 34, an African American lawyer from Fairfax County.

Obama lacks the "old-guard mentality" that characterizes many others at the top of U.S. politics, she said. "He's really a great role model."

That characterization and others offered last night were reminiscent of descriptions of other members of a rising new generation of African American political figures, including D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D).

As excitement circulated through the lounge, Shelita Trawick, 50, a Manassas resident who is African American and a project manager for a government contractor, said she looked beyond Obama's racial heritage. "I related to his ideas," she said. "The fact that he happens to be African American is secondary."

Andrea Rosario-Gborie, 49, of Southwest described Obama as one who did not carry many of the burdens imposed by America's racial history and as someone who could bridge continents and expand African American political horizons.

Like others interviewed as televisions blared, she referred to America's past racial difficulties. Rosario-Gborie also suggested that Obama's success symbolized progress, not just for African Americans, but for all Americans.

"He doesn't carry a lot of that historical baggage," she said. "He'll make black politics more multi-dimensional."

Rosario-Gborie said it was the infectious enthusiasm of a white supporter of Obama whom she met last March on F Street NW that caused her to recognize that he possessed special unifying qualities.

Everyone recognized the historic significance of Obama's achievement. Sheron Barton, another African American lawyer, said only Obama's race had given her any doubt that he could be elected.

"If you take away his color, he's a fantastic candidate," she said.

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