Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blacks Appear Poised to Influence Iowa Caucuses

By Dana Boone

Many African-Americans across Iowa said determination and excitement is driving them to participate in tonight's Iowa Caucuses for the first time.

"Black people -- this is our opportunity to step up to the plate," said Melvin Hawkins, a 45-year-old DJ from Davenport and a first time caucus-goer.

Blacks in Des Moines, Waterloo and Davenport said they felt compelled to learn about a political process that is still somewhat mysterious to them -- and participate tonight -- because they feel strongly about presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"Everybody is pretty much pumped on the idea that we could possibly get a president like Obama," said Kenneth Foster, 35, a student mentor at Creative Visions in Des Moines and first-time caucus-goer.

Many black Iowans said the nation is in trouble with its lackluster economy, the war in Iraq, a bleak employment outlook and racial disparities in schools and prisons. It's more important than ever, they said, for blacks to help decide who will become president. And, the nation is watching.

"Things are bad right now, and I know if someone doesn't come in a make a difference right away, we're going to be in another sort of depression (era)," Foster said.

Many blacks said they have noticed an unusual increase this year in discussions among their friends and families about the problems affecting the country, the presidential candidates and how to caucus.

Hawkins, who expressed dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq and the way the country is being managed, said Obama has the "wow" factor.

"It seems like you've got more of a voice because he's on the same page as you, in the same age range as you," Hawkins said. "He's a person who will give the us a fresh start."

READ the entire story at Iowa Independent.

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