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Charlotte Amalie
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HomeNewsArchivesVirgin Islanders Revel in Obama's Big Night

Virgin Islanders Revel in Obama's Big Night

Nov. 4, 2008 — "I'm 64 years old and this is the most important day of my life," said Unise Tramberg, owner of Pier 69 in Frederiksted, as she swayed to the music and watched the election returns from the U.S. election, in which Sen. Barack Obama swept to a historic victory to become the 44th president.
A large crowd of Obama supporters gathered at the bar to watch the returns and the historical night when a black American reached the country's highest elected office.
Seated near one of the televisions, Diane Hampton reflected on the fort just a few hundred feet away watching over Frederiksted harbor, and its counterpart in Christiansted.
"So many African people came through that fort," she said, "and many of them got taken on to the mainland. And now …" Her voice trailed off as an amazed smile stole across her face.
Jean Yemaya Jones, a teacher at St. Croix Educational Complex, said what so many people of all colors have been thinking as they watched a black man become president.
"I didn't think I'd see it in my lifetime," said Jones, the mother of five daughters who were all able to vote for Obama. "My youngest daughter said she didn't expect to see it in her lifetime."
At least two of the people at Pier 69 were watching with particular interest. Nancy Taggart and Lea Maceyko are both from Ohio, and experienced a sense of pride when, midway through the night, the networks declared that their state had gone for the Democratic candidate.
"I was excited," Maceyko said. "It was a pretty hard state to pull off."
Four years ago Ohio had been the critical state in reelecting Republican George W. Bush. Maceyko pointed to the large rural areas, where conservative voters are often enough to overpower the more liberal areas around Cleveland and Columbus, where she lives part of the year. Maceyko owns homes both in Ohio and on St. Croix.
Taggart voted early before coming to St. Croix for a vacation. She wasn't surprised when her state went for the next president.
"I did think Obama was going to win, but not a lot of others did," she said.
Hampton, who moved to St. Croix five years ago from Washington, D.C., said she wasn't able to vote because she had registered to vote in local elections. But she felt a part of Obama's victory, and not just because of her campaign contributions.
"Synergy is very powerful, and prayer," she said. "It united the people of St. Croix. Our vote was invisible."
Jones agreed, saying, "the spirit of the ancestors is present, and it's powerful."
For Bud Hazard, another teacher who moved to St. Croix from Rhode Island when he graduated from college in 1972, said he was happy to see the election results.
"Every person of color is excited about the election," he said.
Across St. Croix, people celebrated Obama's resounding victory.
"Tomorrow we will wake up to a mystical morning when Obama has been elected president," said Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson, who was the biggest vote getter in St. Croix's election.
"We shall overcome today," said Elizabeth Pichardo of St. Croix. "You remember the hymn 'We Shall Overcome.' Tonight we are taking a great leap forward with Barack Obama. And it is a leap year — Obama makes it a quantum leap year. We have a mess on our hands left behind by the last guy, and we all have to be responsible for each other, whether black, white, purple or green, this shows we are all the U.S.A. This gives us now a chance to talk about race and get it all out. Face the fear and the fear will disappear. This will make things a lot better."
Tuesday's results made St. Croix radio host Anthony Weeks remember an earlier campaign.
"I served on Jesse Jackson's presidential bid in the '80s," he said. "So I've sort of had a different perspective, seeing not the first black man to seriously run for president, but the first one to be the major party candidate and win the election. Obama, it appears, has what it takes to be a great leader. … You don't learn to be a leader in school. You can learn to be a manager, but you either are a leader or you aren't. It takes courage, the ability to listen and judgment, and Obama exhibits all of these. … I think America has arrived at a good place. We've come a long way."
Obama serves as a mirror to the country, according to Weeks.
"All of America has ownership in Obama," he said. "I think that is a great part of his strength. He represents all of us. Through his mix, we each see a reflection of ourselves in him and a reflection of the diversity of our nation."
Delegate Donna M. Christensen is excited about being close to the action.
"It's an extra-special feeling that I have here tonight," she said as she attended a presidential-watch party in Sion Farm, St. Croix. "To actually be in the thick of what's going on, and in this seat of government at this historic time — it's really a wonderful feeling. I think Sen. Obama is really going to be investing more in the people of the United States, in our education and health care, and investing in our country's infrastructure so that we can all be safe. He's also going to be taking a close look at our international relations, and our position of leadership in the world, and at bringing back that kind of respect that other countries once had for us."
Sen. Shawn-Michael Malone had a special perspective on the election, having served as an Obama delegate at the Democratic Convention.
"I am truly excited about his presidency," Malone said. "I believe that he's going to integrate the territory more into the mainstream of American's social, economic and political life. In this day and age, we have to take a second look as to why we even have U.S. territories, and I think we, as local leaders, should use this opportunity to present how we can be useful to the United States. I think Sen. Obama will also look at giving us the type of economy we want, the education system we need and is willing to work with the people to make these goals a reality."
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