- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008

UPDATED:

The crowd inside Ben’s Chili Bowl roared with applause as news stations called the District for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, just after the polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

Nearly 100 people crowded into the restaurant to watch Election Day results, which could put the first black man in the White House. Each state called in the Illinois Democrat’s favor prompted screams of joy.

The symbolism in this U Street neighborhood the hub of the District’s black nightlife and the streets that were decimated in riots 40 years ago wasn’t lost on anyone.

“As an African-American woman, I think about all the people before me who died for us to be able to vote, and to see this happening, it’s just it’s awesome,” said Robin Wallace, a 48-year-old D.C. resident.

Bars, clubs and restaurants up and down U Street hosted election night parties many rooting for Mr. Obama. Revelers crowded the street as if it were Saturday night, despite rain, and drivers beeped their horns up and down the street.

It’s a far cry from the old image of the U Street neighborhood images of burnt or looted homes and businesses.


The once thriving black neighborhood had been destroyed in riots after the April 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King. But in the past decade, the bars, nightclubs and restaurants have returned, marking a U Street renaissance, just as the nation’s first black presidential candidate of a major party has risen to the doorstep of the White House.

Both candidates could make history: Mr. Obama as the first black president and Republican Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin as the oldest president and first female vice president.

Andrew Wiseman, 29, headed out to celebrate cautiously on U Street as the Electoral College count tilted in Mr. Obama’s favor late Tuesday night.

“It’s been 12 years, basically, since we won an election, so I’m looking forward to it,” he said, careful not to jinx himself.

Public viewing parties in the Washington area largely skewed in Mr. Obama’s favor. The District, Maryland and Northern Virginia suburbs were all expected to go in the Illinois Democrat’s favor.

In historically black neighborhoods of Washington, memories turned to King.

“What did Martin Luther King say? We’re going to the mountaintop? That’s how I feel,” Delores Oliver, standing in the parking lot of the hilltop Washington View Apartments in Anacostia, told the Associated Press.

Addie Green couldn’t even cast a vote for Mr. Obama on Tuesday, but that didn’t stop her from hosting what she hoped would be a victory party.

The Trinidad and Tobago native and owner of the Islander Caribbean Restaurant on U Street had music blaring, food cooking and TVs showing the returns Tuesday night.

“Together we aspire, together we achieve, and that’s why we have both of our flags here tonight,” she said of the American and Trinidad flags in her restaurant.

Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast was busy Tuesday night with revelers, many of whom were sporting Obama gear.

Henry Wiencek, 22, sported not one but more than four Obama stickers on his shirt Tuesday.

“I’m actually a registered Republican, but I’m very disappointed with the GOP,” he said of why he voted for Mr. Obama.

Traditional political hot spot Hawk ‘n’ Dove, which was airing election returns, was filled with people and electronics.


“There are probably three people inside who aren’t [also] on laptops,” said John Jackson, 41, outside the bar.

Good Stuff Eatery in Southeast was packed with Capitol Hill residents and others, including many Obama supporters.

“He’s had a huge uphill battle, and I’m glad to see he has a great chance at it,” said Spike Mendelsohncq, shop owner and former contestant on the “Top Chef” reality show, as Mr. Obama’s count in the Electoral College reached 200 Tuesday night.

Jen Calantone, Mark Syp and Jeff Canning contributed to this report.

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