Harlemites say Obama's inauguration is MLK's dream come true

By Marlene Naanes

mnaanes@am-ny.com

At a popular Barack Obama souvenir stand in Harlem, a button featuring the president-elect and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the fastest-selling items leading up to the inauguration.

The button’s popularity is symbolic of a sentiment rolling through Harlem and the rest of the country as Obama’s ascension approaches, and as it happens, falls the day after the nation celebrates King’s legacy.

“Just the fact that Martin Luther King fought for us, it’s a special day,” said Gina Limehouse, 41, of Harlem. “He had a dream, and the dream came true. It might not have been when he wanted it, but that day came.”

Beyond just a button, Obama himself seemed to invoke King yesterday, addressing concert-goers at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the same place King gave his “I Have a dream” speech more than 45 years ago. Some in Harlem yesterday thought Obama’s inauguration was so historic, they wished it also had been declared a national holiday.Sajuan Scott, 14, said he’d treat Tuesday as a holiday by staying home from school to watch the inauguration ceremony and festivities on television.

“It’s like Martin Luther King had a dream about black people having rights and then the day after [his birthday], it’s actually happening -- it just falls into place,” the teenager said. “I never thought an African American could even run for president. It shows everything can happen.”

For several people in Harlem yesterday, the coincidental chronology of the MLK holiday and the inauguration of the first black president was bittersweet.

“The man [King] fought for so long, and he died trying to bring change,” said Leonard Campbell, 36. “Now he finally got change. It’s shouldn’t have taken this long.”

Others said King’s dream has not been fulfilled — yet.

“We still have a whole lot more to do,” said Tory Liferidge, 31, of the Youth and Young Adult Pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church in southwest Harlem. “We don’t want to lose ourselves in the moment and forget, especially as we celebrate Dr. King.”

For some folks, Obama’s inauguration following King’s holiday was no fluke.

“I don’t think it’s a coincidence at all,” said Katrina Roberts, 18, as she left First Corinthian yesterday. “It’s something that’s been in the making for a long time. I think that God planned it that way.”

Tags: martin luther king , barack obama , harlem , politics

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