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Tri-State blacks discuss Democratic presidential nomination

June 05, 2008|By MARLO BARNHART

TRI-STATE -- In winning the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama has taken the historic step of becoming the first black presidential nominee. Local members of the black community talked Wednesday about what that means to them and the country.

"It's unbelievable," said Princeton Young, who described himself as a black man who grew up in the 1960s and never thought he'd see the day that a black man would be a nominee for president of the United States.

Young, 61, works with youths at Antietam Academy. Active in his community all of his life, he was an assistant warden at one of the state prisons south of Hagerstown before re-entering the educational arena.

Raised during the time when education was "separate but equal," Young said he often wondered if attitudes and prejudices would ever change.

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He predicted that the emergence of Obama as the Democratic party's candidate in the 2008 presidential election will move the country forward.

Young said older Americans might use race and gender as a major factor when sizing up a person, but "the kids I work with, they don't see it in each other."

He said he hopes that because of Obama's nomination, members of the black community will realize that their votes count.

"Just think how much it will mean in voter registration," Young said.

Carolyn Brooks termed the Obama nomination "a moment in history we can all be proud of, black or white."

Brooks, coordinator of CSAFE, a community-based organization dedicated to crime prevention in Washington County, said his success shows more people are accepting diversity and recognizing skills, talents and achievements, no matter what the person's race or gender.

"I'm optimistic and looking forward to the process leading up to the election," Brooks said. "It will be a long road ahead for Obama, but no different from anyone else."

Hampton Wedlock, a vice president for Washington County's chapter of the NAACP, said he was proud that a black person had won the nomination.

"In America right now, I personally don't think color is the issue anymore," Wedlock said. "I think they're looking at the individual."

Wedlock said he believes young people have a lot to do with the change.

Obama would represent America well, Wedlock said, and noted that he would like to see him choose Hillary Clinton as his running mate.

"There's no reason a woman couldn't run this country, either," he said. "For years, women haven't gotten a fair shake."

In West Virginia, George Rutherford said he was thrilled that Obama more than likely would receive the Democratic nomination.

Rutherford, who is president of the Jefferson County NAACP, said he expects Obama will go all the way to the White House.

"He has the correct platform," Rutherford said. "I think he will bring the change that is needed."

Rutherford said many politicians talk about change, but never follow through with their promises. He said he believed Obama would deliver on his pledges to end the war in Iraq and to provide health care to all Americans.

Staff writers Erin Julius and Dan Dearth contributed to this story.

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