Today was certainly a highlight of the weekend for me! At 9:00am, we arrived at the Columbia HQ to take park of a large faith-based mobilization hosted by Obama’s campaign. As an organizer, I remember how important, yet challenging and nuanced, organizing the churches can be. And as a buddhist practicioner, there was only so much I felt like I could accomplish, outside of building relationships with congregations that were open to inter-faith alliances. Obama’s “Call to Chapel” was exciting to me because 1) my partner is Christian and has helped me better understand the Christian faith, and 2) the mobilization was about simply meeting people where they were, rather than aggressive campaigning.

At the headquarters, I was happy to see a large crowd gathering and a charter bus pulling into the parking lot. Outside of some logistical delays, everyone that showed up was assigned a church to attend. My partner and I chose to go to Antioch A.M.E Church in Eastover which was located about 40 minutes outside of Columbia. During the drive, I saw how this part of South Carolina was truly rural, without much infrastructure between population centers.

 

I had no idea what to expect when we arrived at Antioch A.M.E. This was the kind of church that had a grave next to the building, with an address named after itself. How well would they receive us? Would they let us read Senator Obama’s letter? Did I look okay? All went well — Reverend Benton and his congregation welcomed us with open arms, and this Sunday happened to be dedicated to the youth members of the church, so we were lucky to have one of the children read Obama’s letter.

As an observer, I think that the “Call to Chapel” action was successful. Over the weekend, I had overheard many people who had qualms about taking part in this action, or who thought it was not for them. But I don’t think one needs to be Christian to take part in something like this. What better way to earn trust and build bridges than to go to the place that is the foundation of so many people?

After lunch, we made our way to the Convention Center, to hear Obama speak at a 5:00pm rally. According to our friend who was a staffed organizer, the campaign had little time to thoroughly outreach for the event. But there was already 2,500+ crowd inside. Again, I was amazed at the broad range of people who were there. The majority of attendees were people of color, and folks from all walks of life were present! I saw families bring their kids, toddlers and infants. A middle-aged female teacher stood near me and applauded Obama’s educational policies. A group of black high schoolers stood several feet in front and were jumping with excitement. Three white sorority girls walked by us with wide smiles on their faces. Certainly, there is something special about Senator Obama in which he is able to bring out the hope of change among many people.

This really is the first time I’m amped about a presidential candidate. With his community organizing background, Obama has the integrity to understand the issues that impact regular folk.I’m not endorsing Obama because I’m afraid the opposition will win. I’m endorsing him because his campaign is restoring my interest in the electoral process and has a vision with which I can get on board.

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