By Jeff Hansel
Frederick and Aundrea Douglas sent out a text message Monday night in anticipation of what was once unthinkable.
"You’re invited to a victory party!" about 50 cell phones throughout Rochester declared. "Come celebrate this historic moment at ‘Le Garage.’"
"Right now we’re just excited on so many different levels," said Aundrea Douglas, co-owner of Hip Hop Fashion Wear in Rochester, which registered 100 new voters this year.
Food, friends, chilled beverages and music greeted guests as they arrived Wednesday night for the celebration of Barack Obama’s selection as the 44th president of the United States.
At the party, fourth-year Rochester medical student Rayna Dyck, originally from Alabama, recalled how she avoided watching television on election night because she was afraid she’d become overwhelmed emotionally.
"Once they announced he had won, I could hear people screaming in my apartment building. I immediately thought about my grandmother," she said.
Aundrea Douglas’ mother, Sandra Williams, 65, said it’s hard to express what the election of Obama means to a woman who climbed aboard a bus in 1965 in St. Louis for a trip to Selma, Ala., to march for civil rights.
"I didn’t see it coming in my time. I knew eventually it was going to happen. But I figured it would be with my children or grandchildren," Williams said. "And then this young man comes from Chicago and the country just falls in love with him. And I fell in love with him, not because he was black, but because there was something about him."
Williams remembers President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act in 1965 that outlawed discriminatory practices that prevented blacks from voting.
"It was just like God had opened up the skies and we were crying and praying," she said. "But it didn’t come easy. If it were not for Johnson, there would be no Barack Obama. That’s how important the stroke of that pen was."
She shakes her head slowly back and forth and purses her lips together with emotion.
"You think about all the people that have come and gone before, and you just have to think they are up there — and they’re just rejoicing."