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Time Capsule: Crenshaw Square Celebrates Obama’s Inauguration

March 19, 2009

Crenshaw is Obama Country

Crenshaw is Obama Country

As on Tuesday, we’re revisiting a few stories I’ve previously written for USC classes. Below, we’ll sit down for some soul food to watch Obama’s inauguration.

From grits to sushi, the Crenshaw Square Shopping Center offered South Los Angeles residents plenty of culinary options with which to celebrate the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States.

Just a day after the Kingdom Day Parade celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday marched within two blocks of the Crenshaw Square, Mama’s House soul food restaurant was open early to welcome those who wanted to celebrate Obama’s inauguration over grits and eggs.

Down the street, the local newspaper – the Los Angeles Sentinel – declared with a large banner: “Crenshaw is Obama Country.”  Obama is well-supported in the predominantly Democratic area.  About 80 percent of Leimert Park residents identify as black or African-American, according to the 2000 census.

Crenshaw Live sports bar

Crenshaw Live sports bar

Crenshaw Live, a sports and sushi bar, used Obama’s inauguration as its grand opening day.  Originally targeting an early January grand opening, the owners decided to wait until Jan. 20 to unveil the bar, which has a koi pond in the floor and 24 flat-screen TVs “so wherever you sit you can see a TV,” says 41-year-old Kimberly Williams, wife of co-owner Deron Williams.

Kimberly Williams sees the Crenshaw Live staff – black, Korean and Ethiopian – as an example of diversity in keeping with the spirit of electing the first black president.  Even with Crenshaw Live’s opening in concert with Obama’s inauguration day, she felt the day the election votes were counted was more significant.

“As an African-American woman, the night of the election was just overwhelming, so … to me it didn’t really matter that he said what he was gonna do or how he was gonna do it,” she said.

The same was true for Stacy Peavy, a waitress who has worked at Mama’s House for eight years.  Peavy and her 31-year-old nephew Dayon Shaw, who also works at the restaurant, watched the inauguration coverage on CNN while serving a handful of customers breakfast and preparing for a special brunch buffet in honor of Obama’s inauguration at 10:30 a.m.

Like many people in the Crenshaw Square, Peavy and Shaw wore as much Obama gear as possible.  On top of an Obama T-shirt was an Obama necklace, above which were earrings featuring Obama’s portrait.  Shaw wore a T-shirt with an Obama-related message on the back: “From the slave house / To the White House / Our Time Has Come / At Last.”

At Mama’s House, particularly passionate moments of the inauguration were punctuated by claps and comments from the soul food restaurant’s patrons and employees.

Mama's House soul food

Mama's House soul food

“Let’s get the party started!” shouted a diner immediately before Obama began speaking.

Not everyone inside the restaurant shared the same enthusiasm for the inauguration events preceding Obama’s speech.  A man selling Obama clothing, posters and other paraphernalia to Peavy and others paid no attention to Aretha Franklin singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” as he sold his wares and left Mama’s House not long after Franklin had finished.

Once Obama completed his approximately 20-minute speech, Peavy shook her head in awe at the day’s events.  She may not have wanted anything specific from Obama’s speech but she was sure about one thing: “Change is happening right now as we are speaking.”

Outside the restaurant, Emanuel Reyes, a 50-year-old Crenshaw Square custodian from El Salvador, cleaned a patio near The Cobbler Lady.  Reyes admired Obama’s oratorical skills but voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries before voting for Obama in the election against John McCain.  He was working while Obama spoke but looked forward to hearing the speech after work.

“I like to listen or watch him,” Reyes said, “but I didn’t have time this morning.”

Throlentta Anderson, a 55-year-old retired man, ate breakfast at Mama’s House as he watched the 44th president speak.  Anderson wanted to hear Obama acknowledge the impact his presidency has on civil rights progress.  Obama touched on this subject more than once, including when he mentioned his Kenyan father:

“This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed – why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than 60 years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath,” said Obama.

An Obama supporter, Anderson was not as impressed with the speech as he was with Ronald Reagan’s second term inauguration speech.

“I think [Obama] lost it after a while,” Anderson said.

Like Kimberly Williams, Anderson hopes people will give Obama a chance to make some of the significant changes on which his campaign platform was based.

“What matters to me,” Kimberly said, “is (that) the American people (are) patient with him to get the job done – it’s not gonna happen overnight.”

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3 comments

  1. […] Read more from the original source: Time Capsule: Crenshaw Square Celebrates Obama’s Inauguration … […]


  2. What an interesting angle Mr. Gale used to approach President Obama’s inauguration. It was really nice to see how locals were reacting to the event, and I feel that in that sense, he has managed to capture an “common man” perspective.


  3. […] in the Journey Zach’s Blog « Time Capsule: Crenshaw Square Celebrates Obama’s Inauguration Time Capsule: Tzu Chi and the Freeway Complex Fire March 22, 2009 East Anaheim […]



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