Friday, August 29th, 2008 :: Day 4: The Mirror

Yesterday, the Democrats worked hard to link Barack Obama’s speech to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the 1963 March on Washington.

On the floor near to the stage, the delegation from Minnesota roared when the Reverend Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “This is one of our nation’s greatest defining moments.”

It was impossible to be at Mile High Stadium yesterday and not be struck by how much the Democratic Party has changed, even from 4 years ago.

A quarter of the 4,400 Democratic delegates in town this week were African American. In fact, the Minnesota delegation seemed a mirror to the future. Fifty of the 80 elected delegates were of color. The median age of that state’s delegation seemed to have dropped by a decade in the last four years.

As Will.I.Am prepared to take the stage with John Legend, he had his own analogy in mind. “Obama is probably the first mirror of America,” he said. “The presidents that we have had before have been portraits, painted a long time ago.”

The massive crowd of 85,000—invited in to celebrate Obama’s nomination—looked even more diverse than the one at an average Denver Broncos game.

Seats in the house were certainly much more difficult to land than tickets to a Broncos game. But people were motivated.

Aaron Johnson, a 37-year old animator from Ontario, California, had shown up with his family and friends in Denver without seats. But after a contact came through, he rounded up the crew to get to Mile High 7 hours before Obama took the stage. They avoided the mile-long lines that characterized the afternoon for most attendees who hadn’t yet starred in a hit Hollywood movie.

His seats seemed a mile high from the portico-style dais, which he couldn’t see. He had all the hot summer sunshine he might have wanted, and a great view of the back of the stage. But he wouldn’t have missed the moment. “We were gonna go whether we got tickets or not,” he said.

He looked on the bright side, “You can see the city from up above.”

Sitting nearby in section 538—”Upper Northeast”, the ticket read—sat Mavis Brooks and her 16 year-old niece Lashay, from Chesapeake, Virginia. Mavis bought her airline tickets and hotel reservations to Denver in January, long before it seemed like her candidate was going to secure the nomination. She failed to land Virginia “community credentials”, but she was determined to go anyway.

And so there she was, after a lot of footwork, sitting in the heat high atop Mile High. “We had faith and we had hope, so that’s what we came out here with,” she said. “There’s a lot of people out here just like me.”


Not long after Obama’s speech, the celebrations began. And even the celebrations looked different.

On one side of town, The Cool Kids and The Clipse—The Clipse?!!—rocked a Democrats’ party. On the other, Will.I.Am’s star-studded “Yes We Can” party, first-time delegate Anton Gunn marveled at how far hip-hop had come. He had screamed himself hoarse on Tuesday at a show featuring Slick Rick, UTFO, and Whodini.

How could he have even imagined this night back in those Fresh Fest days?

Gunn was leaving early the next morning back to South Carolina to get back to work: he’s an African American candidate in a close race for a seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Onstage, another of his heroes, Biz Markie had stepped up to the mic as a familiar beat dropped.

“O-bama, you!” the Biz sang. You got what I ne-eeed!”

And the whole crowd joined right in.

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