Skip to content

And at an Oakland AME church: “Hallelujah!”

on November 5, 2008


Nov. 4 — When Steve Kirkendoll was 4 years old, in 1960, he remembers sitting on his mother’s lap and watching on TV as black people in the South got hosed down and bitten by police dogs just for trying to register to vote.

Kirkendall is 52 now. And after what he saw tonight, he said, he can now sit his 4-year-old granddaughter on his lap and tell her what happened on Nov. 4, 2008, when the country elected its first black president.

“For me, in my lifetime, I did not expect to see it,” he said outside the church doors, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the images of Martin Luther King Jr., Barack Obama, and the words, “I Have A Dream That Change Is Gonna Come.” “For me, this brother is doing something that no brother can say they did,” Kirkendall said. “That’s major.”

Throughout the night, Kirkendoll had been enjoying the hopeful festivities along with about 200 of his fellow church members at First African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Telegraph at 37th, as they crowded around a TV in the church’s multipurpose room and ate, praised, danced, prayed and anticipated the election results as they were being unveiled on CNN.

The room was lively with people chattering, children playing and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, keeping tally of the electoral votes on an easel as his wife Mary gave word from her laptop.

Then, as CNN began counting down the seconds on the screen until the final polls closed on the West Coast at 8 p.m., the church members joined together in unison in the counting down the final seconds.

“10, 9, 8,” they shouted in a syncopated tone, as though it were New Year’s Eve. “7, 6, 5, 4,” they shouted, as the pitch of their voices began rising. “3, 2, 1,” they sang.

Then the room erupted in a long scream of joy that lasted for the better part of three minutes. All the while, people jumped in elation shouting “Hallelujah” and “Thank you, Jesus,” lifted their hands in praise, and the children caught up the cry: “Obama! Obama! Obama!”

One man tossed up his son high in the air as they shared a giggle.

Mary Mayberry had to take off her glasses as tears streamed down her face.

And 19-year-old Levi Bull was roaming around the room with a bottle of sparkling apple cider in his hand. Cups were filled as the rest of the bottles were distributed throughout the room.

Almost immediately following that moment, the Rev. Mayberry quieted down the room and spoke to the group, his words almost choking up in his throat.

“I never expected in my lifetime to see a black man in the White House, and never, ever take any victory of God lightly,” he said, followed by “Uh hum’s” and “Amens.” “Nobody can convince me now that God’s not in this.”

Then he led the group in prayer.

“Thank God for the storm, for showing us as a people that you are able to bring us through the storm,” Mayberry prayed.

“Now, Lord, we pray for president-elect Obama,” he said as the group joined together in a mighty “Amen!”

After celebrating and shouting, Kirkendoll said he truly believed Obama had been “anointed by God” to become president.

But that doesn’t mean people should lose focus, he said. It should definitely motivate young people, he said, especially young black men and women, to turn Obama’s vision of change into reality.

He quickly noted that people shouldn’t get caught up in the fact that Obama is the country’s first black president, though, because “it’s not about us, it’s about doing what’s right.”

Meanwhile, Bull was still in a celebratory mood. He said he has been trying to get his music career off the ground, and now that Obama has been elected president, his concerns about a possible economic depression have now vanished.

And now that Obama has been elected, what next? “All I got to say is,” he said, “Baby, let’s go! Let’s go!”||||||||||||||||||||||

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top