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UCB black students sober, charged, expectant

on November 7, 2008


Nov. 6 — The mood was more subdued than celebratory in the room where a group of black graduate students from the University of California-Berkeley met to reflect the day after Tuesday’s historic presidential election. They shared their joy and ambivalence over having the first black president elected to office. They snacked on food. Most of all they concluded that, with Barack Obama in the country’s highest office, black people now have to continue to uplift themselves–that America must not assume having a black man as president means that race relations are forever resolved.

Here were some of their thoughts.

Corey Ponder, 23, graduate student in public policy

After it was announced that Obama had been elected president, Ponder said he rejoiced and joined the people outside of his apartment building—many of whom were from different ethnic backgrounds—to celebrate in the street. He also was amazed how the rest of world reacted to Obama’s win. For those countries that have felt the United States’ foreign influence has diminished under President Bush, he said, they might now feel that America is set to change course and get back to its core principles. “So it means a lot of things to a lot of different people,” he said.

Carmen Mitchell, 35, doctoral student in African diaspora studies

For Mitchell, Obama’s election was cause for renewed responsibility in the black community. She said she now has her own expectations of black people, especially young black men. “I want to say to them, ‘Now, ya’ll don’t have to be basketball players, you have a role model,’” meaning young black people have living proof that they can accomplish anything in life.

Adebiyi Adesina, 33, doctoral student in public health

Adesina said he was shocked to hear people saying that with Obama as president racism is no longer an issue. “I see this as an opportunity to continue a very difficult conversation,” he said. “Now it’s out there. Now people have to confront their racism. But having to pull back those layers is going to be difficult for this nation.”



Claudia Sitgraves, 27, doctoral student in economics

“Today, when I woke up, I really felt like I wanted to work as hard as I can by making things better,” she said. Her motivation is twofold, she said. Part of it comes from Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday, in which he gave a charge to Americans to “join in the work of remaking this nation.” The other part of it comes from not wanting things to get worse and not wanting Obama to take the fall for it in the shame. “I know myself that I might not contribute that much to the GDP,” she said, “but I’ll do what I can.”

Krystal Strong, 23, doctoral student in anthropology

“I’m very proud of Obama. Only Obama could have risen to this moment because he is the melting pot,” she said. But she added that Obama’s election shouldn’t cause people to overlook the troubled histories of the country’s minorities that, in her opinion, haven’t been fully addressed. And she is weary of what happens next to the state of race relations. “So I’m thinking we may be setting ourselves up for the okie doke.”


A.B. Wilkinson, 30, doctoral student in history

Wilkinson said he had no problem celebrating Obama’s victory. Being biracial, he said he could empathize with Obama and understand his strategy of appealing to all types of people. And he thinks Obama’s multiethnic background makes his election even more symbolic. “For me, in particular, because I am multiethnic, I shed tears,” he said. “I lost it.”

Martin Ricard has been following a group of black graduate students on the UC Berkeley campus to get their pre- and post-election reactions to the presidential race. This is a follow-up to the first story published Tuesday.||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||

1 Comment

  1. […] Oakland North UCB black students sober charged expectant Posted by root 18 minutes ago ( Submitted by mricard on november 7 2008 3 52 pmno comment i want to say to them 39 now ya 39 ll don 39 t have to be basketball players you have a role Discuss  |  Bury |  News | Oakland North UCB black students sober charged expectant […]

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