“Obama Day” at Savoy Center

The Savoy Entertainment Center in Inglewood was packed with Perry and others like her who wanted to celebrate the historic moment unfolding at the National Mall in Washington with their larger community.

Inauguration Day held a special significance in South Los Angeles, which has a higher concentration of African Americans and Latinos than the rest of the county. Racial tensions against blacks and between blacks and Latinos have played an important role in shaping the politics and culture of this area. That the event was being held a day after the Martin Luther King Day celebrations only added to its historical significance.

"For African Americans it’s an important day…it’s a once in a lifetime thing and it’s ironic that this day has arrived after King’s Day and 45 years after his ‘I have a dream’ speech," said Jonathan De Veaux, owner of Savoy.

An Obama loyalist, DeVeaux had held a similar watch party at his restaurant to celebrate Obama’s election win. That, according to DeVeaux, drew 1,200 people. He expected a huge turnout Tuesday, though not as much as he had on Election Day. As a bonus he offered complimentary breakfast to the audience–buttered toast, hash browns and fried chicken.

"This is not really a money-maker…we’re trying to be here for the community. And as a business owner, I hope the community will be there for me. Also, I didn’t want to just watch it (the swearing-in ceremony) at my house," said De Veaux.

No sooner did the doors open at 8 a.m., than people eager to get good seats began lining up outside Savoy. Most wore Obama t-shirts, caps and badges and some carried flags. Inside, De Veaux had lined up chairs on the sprawling dance floor and put up a huge projector screen to showcase the oath-taking ceremony. "I thought we would get about 100 to 125 people, but guests have been walking in continuously," said De Veaux, who had planned another party for the evening.

Among the guests was local resident David Johnson, 62, who was watching the ceremony with his brother-in-law and his friend, Inglewood Parks and Recreation Commissioner Willie Agee. "I came to Savoy because it’s an indoor venue and I wanted to be around like-minded people for this historic event…I wanted to feel the excitement around me," said Johnson.

As a descendent of former slaves, Johnson said he was ecstatic to see a black man as president. "There have been other black men before him, but the difference is that Obama is a qualified black man. He’s worked his way upwards. That tugs at my heart because I experienced a lot of racial discrimination in my lifetime. There was a time when we paid taxes in order to vote and used water from separate water pumps. As a child I attended segregated schools. I’ve seen a lot in my life and this is really fantastic, so I wanted to share this event with people of my age who had gone through similar experiences," he said.

Like Johnson, Agee said he had a lot of confidence in the new president. "Obama will be a strong president.  He has the people behind him. He will change a lot of the rhetoric that he used during campaigning, but I’m sure he will do good work," he said.

This confidence was reflected in several faces across the room. Obama’s appearance on television was greeted with applause and during the oath-taking ceremony, many could be seen wiping their tears. "Are you watching it, and are you in tears, like I am?" said a lady on the phone. Johnson broke into an impromptu jig. At another table, Darnell Charlton, who had come to view the ceremony with his wife and two children, hugged his family. Cameras flashed continuously and cheers drowned out the television commentary.

Obama’s speech was punctuated with the crowd’s applause. His reference to racial barriers breaking, everyone getting a chance to pursue their happiness, and his assertion that though challenges will not be met easily or in a short span of time, but will definitely be met, drew loud cheers. Anti-Bush sentiments were visible in the audience, especially when Obama, referring to the previous president, said, "The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works." His comments about America being ready to lead once again and his oath to begin the work of remaking America drew hearty applause.

"I don’t expect him to be God and repair everything…but I expect him to accomplish a lot of the things he spoke about in his election addresses," said Johnson.

Others like Andre Knox, a resident of neighboring Leimert Park, chose to revel in the moment. "Right now I am only celebrating that he got the job. Though I am only 36, I never expected a black man to reach the White House in my lifetime. It’s really inspiring. I will criticize him later, if need be. It’s not that he can’t do any wrong," he said.

Once the inaugural address was over, the audience took to the dance floor. The music pumped up, the lights shone down and everybody danced together. Outside, a man selling Obama memorabilia did brisk business. As the day wore on, the crowds left, almost reluctantly, wishing each other a "Happy Obama Day"!


  1. Guys every one expecting obama will lead the country to good position. we can celebrate it after his achievement.

  2. American Politics says:

    The Country is in turmoil, Obama should speak up and say, people stay home, save your money. Have the ceremony, and get right to work.This is not a time for celebration

  3. There were 1.2 million people actually there for Obama’s speech.But more than 3 million have gone to Washington just to be there for this historic moment!

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