The long lines have mostly disappeared at Benjamin Orr Elementary School, located in one of Washington, D.C.’s oldest neighborhoods. It’s lunchtime and some of the volunteer poll workers are taking advantage of the brief break by feasting on some good old soul food: cabbage greens, corn bread, fried chicken and potato salad.
This was the perfect time, however, for Hattie Walker and Glenda Harden to come cast their vote. The two women live in the same apartment building and traveled together for this historic occasion.
Though Walker, 72, doesn’t remember the first president she voted for, she can recall clearly the years of segregation that Blacks endured.
“At the lunch counters, the Whites sat at one end and the Blacks sat on the other,” says Walker, who moved to the nation’s capital 50 years ago. “The Whites could sit and eat, but you had to get your food and leave.”
Walker says she likes Sen. Barack Obama’s message about equal pay for women. “Women are still discriminated against in our country, even today,” says Walker, who broke barriers as one of the first African-Americans hired at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
Harden, 71, is most concerned about health care, especially for the elderly. She has friends who don’t have health insurance and can’t afford it. And the nation’s health care problem has even touched her own family.
“I have a daughter who has multiple sclerosis, and she can’t get insurance because of her health,” says Harden, who has 5 children, 14 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. “They say she’s high risk.”
Harden has a number of other concerns she would like to see addressed, such as prayer in school and childhood obesity. But she’s put those thoughts aside to take in the pure relevance of the day. “This is history,” says Harden. “This is really history.”
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