By Johnny Jackson and Joel Hall
On Thursday, many around the Southern Crescent celebrated Barack Obama's acceptance speech, as he claimed the Democratic nomination for president during the National Democratic Convention.
Others were spurred by that historic moment to learn more about the African-American man who wants to be the next president of the United States of America.
The speech, peppered with statements aimed at making the John McCain campaign appear disconnected to Americans, answered critics by specifically laying out Obama's plans, should he become president.
Jim Nichols, chairman of the Henry County Democratic Committee, viewed Obama's speech at a gathering held at Eagle's Landing Country Club in Stockbridge. The gathering, called "Barack Obama's Campaign for Change Party," was co-hosted by the Henry County Democratic Committee and Integrated Communications Solutions, Inc.
"I think Barack Obama said it all," Nichols said, following the speech. "It's time for change and people here in Henry County are ready for it, and want it. That was Obama's message, and I think it rang clear.
"He said the people are going to take back the government and bring change to government, and that was the message, that people are going to stand up and fight, and bring good health care. I think it was an excellent case against John McCain."
He said he believed that Obama's middle-class tax cuts, and his stance on the war, resonated most with those attending his speech live, and those watching it from afar in the Southern Crescent.
"We had a full house," he said. "There were tons of local house parties and neighborhood house parties in Henry County."
Nichols said a bigger picture in the process is the revived and increased interest in the political process. "A success would be if we move away from the apathy ..." he said. "If in November, we can reawaken the great entrepreneurial fire in America that my grandparents had, we'd be a success. Success is going to be if citizens in Henry County believe that they can participate in the process again."
In Clayton County, the speech was a historic event for people who gathered at Luella's Restaurant and Bar in Jonesboro for an Obama Watch Party, organized by the Georgia for Obama campaign. More than 100 family members, friends, and neighbors came to hear what many described as the completion of the late Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, dream for social equality.
Earnest Childs, of Jonesboro, brought his wife and two young children to the event. "My children didn't really recognize how important this was, so we had to raise the priority," said Childs. "This is the first time an African American has been elected to a major party. It's great to know that he is there, not just because he is African American, but because he is qualified to hold America's highest office.
"He is really a Twenty-first Century politician," said Childs. "What we saw here tonight is just evidence of the times and how they are changing."
In a Super Bowl-party atmosphere, a mostly African-American crowd cheered, chanted in unison, and sang inspirational, gospel songs. Marvin Brown, of Jonesboro, praised Obama for giving many people a renewed sense of hope.
"In the [Bill] Clinton era, people could work and find a job," said Brown. "They could be real Americans. Right now, it is getting harder to make an honest living.
"What I appreciate about what Obama brought, is that he laid out exactly what he is going to do," Brown continued. "It's hope and that's what people need. Martin [Luther King] said that one day, he wanted to see the day that a person is judged by how competent he is, rather than by the color of his skin, and we are seeing that in Barack Obama."
Trina Baynes, President of the Henry County Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), said she believed Obama's acceptance speech represents decades of progress in civil rights.
The SCLC - founded in 1957 by the late civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr., Revs. Joseph Lowery, Ralph Abernathy and others - is a faith-based, non-partisan organization dedicated to social, human, and civil rights.
"This is a good day for the SCLC," said Baynes, noting the historical significance of Obama's speech being made on the 45th Anniversary of King's 1963 address in Washington, D.C.
"I'm so overwhelmed by emotion," she said. "To have the first African-American nominee for president is overwhelming for me. I thank and give praise to God, not just for an African American, but for someone who has the attention and interests of so many Americans.
"There is no mistake in the realm of divinity," Baynes added. "It is no mistake that Barack Obama has made his acceptance speech on this day. This is a blessed day, just as it was back then. This is a good day for all Americans. This is a good day for people of good will."
She said she will not publicly endorse any of the candidates, but she did comment on the ideals mentioned in Obama's acceptance speech. "We support the ideals that Barack espouses," she said. "We respect and admire his ideals of better working conditions for middle- and working-class Americans, who have been so victimized by the current policies of this country. We have to look for hope, and we have to believe in a better day."
Recently, the SCLC has been hosting voter registration drives to get citizens interested in the voting process. At its Aug. 23 drive, the organization registered 28 voters within four hours.
The SCLC plans to hold another voter registration drive on Sept. 6, 10 a.m., to 3 p.m., during Community Day at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in McDonough. The church, led by Pastor Anthony Perkins, is located at 637 Ga. Hwy. 42 in McDonough.
"We're asking that everyone who registers to vote call the elections board two weeks after they register to make sure they are eligible to vote," Baynes said. "Your voting right is sacred in this country, and we need to exercise that right."