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Beginning ‘the work of remaking America’

by Tom Chillemi

Immanuel Baptist Church members applaud President Barack Obama during his inaugural address on Tuesday. About 30 people gathered at the church to watch the historic event.  (Photo by Tom Chillemi)
About 30 people gathered at Immanuel Baptist Church on Tuesday to witness history as Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States.

It was a time of jubilation and excitement as the swearing in of the first African-American U.S. President was broadcast on TV.

In the audience was 80-year-old Schreinaer Hodges, whose great-great grandfather was a slave in Middlesex. “Never in my life, did I ever dare dream that one day we’d have a black man, a man of color, be president,” he said.

Hodges, who remembers fighting against the poll tax in the 1950s in Middlesex, said she will pray for the country to move forward. “There are so many hardships, all we can do is pray and work together.”

Inez Chapman was born in 1924 but did not vote until the 1960 election, she said. She remembers being required to move to the back of the bus, being refused service in restaurants, and having her meal handed to her through a window at the back of a restaurant. “I could never understand that,” she said.

Chapman said her mother told her that “one race would be on top . .  . I don’t want it that way. I want everyone to be equal.”

Obama’s rise to the presidency has made Chapman feel “so full. I never thought I’d live to see this day.”

Lillie Braxton, 80, said the inauguration was “overwhelming . . . I thank God for the change.”

Linda Scott noted Obama was not elected “just by the black vote. He was elected by the people. This is wonderful!”

Donald Chapman, a retired USAF master sergeant, said, “Young folks should take notice [of Obama’s success]. With hard work, patience and faith in God, you can do anything.”

Linda Young said the spirit of cooperation of the 1960s “fell apart” and society has suffered. She said Obama will unite the country. “This is a young man that is pulling it all together. He’s summarizing what we’ve been feeling. He’s just bringing it home. You know what is ironic? That a man of true African descent is standing in the White House.”

Ellen Price commented that “prayer has brought us a long way and we need prayer to keep us together. Without prayer we are going to have problems. With deep prayer from the heart, we will get through what is going on right now.”

Barbara Dandridge said Obama is “so charismatic” and a good leader for these difficult times. “I believe he is going to do what he says he is going to do, with the country’s help. The country is in a mess and it takes the whole nation to fix it.

“We have a new direction,” continued Dandridge. “He (Obama) has put God first. He is just awesome. The country has come together and I’m hoping and praying that we stay united.”

Rose Scott said she felt “wonderful” and had hope for the future. “With God’s help he (Obama) will succeed.”

Rev. Calvin Rideau Sr., pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, said he was excited about the future. “There is an excitement now within our small community and a sense of wanting to move forward.”

Rev. Rideau said he will encourage people to improve “our local community” and that good will grow throughout the whole nation.

“Obama will be the type of leader who will listen to the people,” said Rev. Rideau. “If he does that, he will be a leader that will have a profound impact not only on our country, but the world.”

posted 01.21.2009

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