Black voters torn between Clinton and Obama
The largely Democrat-leaning African-American community must choose between an experienced Hillary Clinton and a charismatic Barack Obama. James André and Emmanuel Saint-Martin met voters in New York's black neigbourhoods.
Campaigning at the Abyssinnian Baptist Church in the heart of Harlem, Hillary Clinton has come to say once again that she is on the African-Americans' side.
The Democratic contender for the US presidential election is at home in Harlem. Hillary is a New York state senator and her husband Bill’s presidency is remembered here as a very positive time for the community.
But black voters, who overwhelmingly vote Democrat, are now hesitating between Clinton and black Illinois senator Barack Obama.
Michael Washington, 37, is a financial manager in a Manhattan company. He is not usually interested in politics, but this time he has decided to campaign for Obama. He said: "Here’s a guy in Austin, Texas, that gives a speech and says: 'I am my brothers' keeper'. You don’t hear that in politics, that’s new, it’s refreshing; it’s like, OK, maybe this guy is really about making this world a better place.”
Harlem now has its own Obama campaign office. Volunteers have rented a shop and covered its windows with posters. Inside are a couple of computers, phones, and a large screen on which Obama’s now legendary speeches play continuously.
New York state senator Bill Perkins gave the opening speech. He is one of the rare black New York elected officials to have backed Obama since the beginning of this campaign. The other black leaders stayed loyal to the Clinton clan.
After the speeches, the activists leave on a improvised march. Obama can count on many grassroots groups like this one, which have a lot of impact – even in the media.
Hillary Clinton’s supporters cannot be seen on the street as much. But today, a small group has gathered to confront the Obama volunteers. "Obama will be president one day but he will not be president this year and you all know it!" they shout.
"America's first black president"
Bill Clinton’s presidency’s legacy is still strong in Harlem. Black Americans often refer to him affectionately as "America's first black president".
"'From 1992 to 2000, black people did better in the United States, than they did the previous 400 years", said Clinton supporter David Wilson. "I don’t know if you know anything about black history, we didn’t do too good a while back.”
In the Bronx, over a third of the 1.3 million inhabitants are black and 30% live below the poverty line. There, the Eagle Academy is experimenting with a new model of teaching for troubled boys – with support from Hillary Clinton.
Yet David Banks, its founder and principal, cannot help thinking of what would happen if Obama became America's first real black president: "What if Barack were to win and to represent the very embodiment of all the hopes and aspirations that we want for our children?"