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From all over Los Angeles, people gathered at Leimert Park last Saturday at the Unite for Change rally to support Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, and while familiar faces addressed the crowd, it was the presence of younger supporters that dominated the day.
From 11-year-old Arhomuz Aubry II’s poem about positivity and celebrating Black culture to an appearance by rapper Lil’ Eazy-E, son of the late rap pioneer Eazy-E, to 9-year-old Kiyomi Calloway describing how Sen. Obama has impacted her age group, the rally served to highlight the youth that have been a big part of Obama’s campaign.
The event was sponsored by the Sentinel and radio stations KJLH and KDAY and hosted by KJLH-FM morning show host Guy Black and Sentinel Religion Editor Niele Anderson. It was one of 4,000 rallies held around the country as part of a national day of support for the senator’s campaign and they attracted over 30,000 people nationally.
Despite the early wake-up call (8 a.m. to noon), the energy was contagious as a collection of Obama’s speeches played as a call to arms to prepare everyone for the rally.
The crowd heard from the delegates who will head to Colorado to represent California at the Democratic National Convention as well as local leaders such as Los Angeles City Councilman Bernard Parks and Carson Councilman Mike Gipson.
But the event was dominated by the youth participation. Calloway fired the crowd up by talking about kid-friendly issues such as education and saving the rainforests and reminding them that although she and her friends could not vote, their votes will affect her future.
The Obama campaign has been touted as igniting a fire in young people who weren’t normally engaged in the process and several who attended the rally were living proof of how Obama has ignited their passion in politics.
“I never thought about being interested in politics before,” said Gary Peters, a student at Santa Monica College, “[Obama] has planted that seed in me to want to get involved not just in politics but in the community.”
After being introduced by longtime L.A. radio personality “The Poetess” who highlighted his father’s community work in Compton, Lil’ Eazy-E addressed the crowd on why he was behind Obama and like most of the young speakers talked about how he is concerned about issues such as gas prices and insurance.
“My father made a change and it’s time for another change,” said the 23-year-old rapper, who proudly announced that he had recently registered to vote for the first time.
One of the speakers that closed the rally was Christine Hamilton, a 17-year-old recent graduate of University High School who made a powerful statement that we are “not divided by the red and blue” states but united behind the “red, white and blue” of the flag.
As the event closed with songwriter David Redick’s original composition “Seasons of Change,” one glimpse at the crowd made visitors realize that change was indeed in the air.
Families stood together with their Obama shirts as the rally provided them a chance to share in a moment that has brought together supporters of all ages. Even if some of the children didn’t fully know who Obama was, it was a teaching moment that adults took advantage
“It’s important for them to have awareness,” said Mike James, explaining why brought his niece and two nephews to the rally. “My mother voted but she never talked to me about it.”
Kari Gopaul, a volunteer with the campaign, said that her son often comes home from school talking about Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton and his excitement reminds her of the similar feelings she had in 1992 when she voted for Bill Clinton in high school.
She added that the youth “are our future decision makers” so their presence at rallies like these encouraged her that the torch would be passed to capable hands.
In addition to the speakers, there were also voter registration tables and according to Anderson, 25 to 30 people registered by the end of the rally. The next event will be a youth-led fundraiser for Sen. Obama on July 19.