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Stateside With Rosalea: California Campaign 2

By Rosalea Barker

California Campaign 2

::Abraham, Martin, and John::

It might not be the Reagan Presidential Library or the Kodak Theater, but Beebe Memorial Cathedral in Oakland had its own role to play in the presidential campaigns on Friday afternoon.

Arriving late to the Ted Kennedy rally for Obama at the Beebe Memorial Cathedral meant I had to wait outside with a bunch of others as it had long-since reached its 1200-person seating capacity. A Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church, it is part of a religious tradition that started in 1870 as emancipated slaves sought to form a religious institution that had meaning for, and was under the control of, their own community. According to its website, the CME Church "claims more than 800,000 members across the United States, and has missions and sister churches in Haiti, Jamaica, Ghana, Liberia, and Nigeria."

Another latecomer--an expensively dressed Latina named Lola, who I'd guess to be in her late twenties--told me she'd had to make some complicated arrangements to be able to get away from work that afternoon. She'd driven 35 miles to Oakland from San Mateo in the South Bay to be part of the Obama experience. All of us outside made our way into the church as others left at the end.

After the rally ended, people crowded towards the stage to take photos and speak with Senator Ted Kennedy and local Congresswoman Barbara Lee (standing together in the center of the photo).

Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who replaced now Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums when he retired as California's District 9 representative, was the lone dissenting voice in the House against attacking Afghanistan after 9/11, so her support for Obama is not surprising. "I know that a President Obama would find a prompt and effective way to end the occupation of Iraq and that he would strengthen U.S. diplomacy and international development as an instrument of national policy to prevent crises that lead to war and conflagration," said Lee when she endorsed him last December. When she introduced Senator Ted Kennedy at the rally, Barbara Lee said that this election is about the past versus the future and that Obama represents the latter.

Senator Ted Kennedy, at Friday's rally for Obama in Oakland, CA.

Kennedy is most famous for having driven a car off the side of a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island and the unanswered questions about the death of the young woman who was in the car with him. Though the FBI web page about the case says Mary Jo Kopechne drowned, other reports state there was no water in her lungs and that she suffocated when the oxygen in the pocket of air she was breathing ran out. Could he have saved her?

Sorry to bring that up, but it's puzzling to me why anybody would want to be endorsed by this guy, especially if they're all about "the future". If anything, Ted Kennedy's all about the past and the worst aspects of dynasty politics. The punditocracy say Kennedy is popular with Hispanic voters because of his stance on immigration, and that he also brings some cachet as the brother of both John and Robert Kennedy.

But perhaps it's really the Irish voters that Obama is after:

A greener, Irish-er Obama? Supporter's button features shamrocks and an apostrophe in O'Bama.

On the way home on the bus I ask a white-haired woman with an Obama placard what Senator Kennedy had talked about. She was reluctant to put his message in her own words, suggesting instead that I watch the TV news, but then said he talked "about the Fifties and his brothers." A volunteer with the Obama campaign in the Bay Area, Sterlana told me she likes the candidate because he's well-spoken and well-educated. Later she added, "And because he's black, which I am."

"Be sure to write about 'end the war'", she told me. I asked if Kennedy spoke about that. "Yes, ma'am, he did. He said it's a waste of money. He talked about health care, also." When she was getting off the bus, she leaned over and gave me a small card on which is printed Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

On TV later in the evening, a woman active in social justice issues in the Bay Area was a guest commentator on This Week in Northern California and she pointed out that some African-Americans are participating in prayer circles for Obama, praying that he doesn't get assassinated.

See also: California Campaign (Part 1)




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