suzan-mcdowell_web.jpgFreddie Young became a Barack Obama supporter even before Obama announced his run for presidency. After hearing him speak at the Miami Book Fair International in 2006, Young said she found it easy to support him when he later declared his candidacy.

“There’s just something about him that made me feel he was a good person and sincere,” said Young, a retired principal of Ethel F. Beckford/Richmond Elementary School in South Miami-Dade.

Young, 69, threw herself into the campaign – working to help register voters as well as organizing two fundraisers for him after he won the Democratic presidential nomination. Now, with hundreds of other South Floridians, Young is headed to Washington, D.C., to celebrate his victory at the presidential inauguration Jan. 20.

“This is history,” said Young, who first became involved with the fight for civil rights in 1956 with the Tallahassee bus boycotts. “I’m just so excited and thrilled that I’ve lived long enough to experience this.”

Young will  travel with three friends aboard Amtrak en route to the nation’s capital, where, for the first time ever, the length of the National Mall will be open to any member of the public who wishes to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Festivities will begin at 10 a.m. on the west front of the U.S. Capitol.

Suzan McDowell, a Miami Shores resident and a member of the Women for Obama Miami committee, sensed that
Obama would be the nation’s next president and booked her airline ticket for the inauguration a week before the election.

“I just took a chance,” said McDowell, who is planning on staying with a friend in D.C. during her five-day trip. Now, her goal is to land a ticket to the inauguration, she said.

“It’s hard to find someone who is hooked up for the inauguration,” said McDowell, president/CEO at Circle of One Marketing in Miami. “I’ve been texting and calling everyone. I’ve been pulling every contact that I have.” (McDowell later said she was able to score a ticket.)

Women for Obama has organized and hosted several events supporting Obama, including Kids 4 Obama ’08, a family festival held in Coconut Grove, and Arts for Change, a reception held in Miami that donated proceeds to the Obama Victory Fund.

“You’re talking about a passionate group of women,” said Priscilla Dames-Blake, another member of Women for Obama.
“I don’t think I’ve ever joined a group more serious than this one.”

Dames-Blake and her husband, David Blake prepared for the inauguration by booking a rental house in D.C. about four months ago.  She has been a fan of Obama since his early days as a senator from Illinois, she said.  In December, she and her husband invited about 75 Obama supporters to their Hialeah home for a “Barackin’ the Holiday Party,” where guests learned the Obama shuffle and were greeted by a 6-foot cutout of Obama with a Santa hat at the door.

“You name it, we’ve done it,” she said.

Miami attorney Marlon Hill is bringing the Caribbean-American culture from South Florida to D.C.  Hill, in conjunction with his Miami law firm, delancyhill, P.A., will be co-hosting two Caribbean-inspired parties during his trip to the inauguration. 

On Sunday, Jan. 18, the “Obama Soca-Rama Inauguration Day Fete” event will take place from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. at De Island Loft in the D.C. Farmer’s Market District.

The partying will continue with drinks, music and networking on Monday, Jan. 19 in Maryland with “Jewel: The Presidential Lime,” beginning at 3 p.m.

“In addition to the Caribbean region,  I think America will be moving to restore its relationships with its neighbors and allies,” said Hill, who was appointed one of Florida’s 27 presidential electors under the Electoral College, the constitutional system created in 1787 for officially picking presidents.

“We have a lot of relations to mend,’’ Hill said. “This will also be a great opportunity for the Caribbean region to see some hope and feel that they have someone who is authentically sensitive to their situation.”

The list of South Floridians headed to Washington features some local politicians, including newly elected state Rep. Dwight Bullard and Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson.

“This is a very historical event that is occurring, and I want to be a part of it,’’ Edmonson said. “This is something that we all as a community should be extremely proud of.’’

Edmonson also said she is excited about having tickets to attend the inauguration and is looking forward to watching the swearing-in ceremony.

During the campaign, she said, she held several “Get Out and Vote’’ events, including a walk in Miami-Dade County.

The Hot 105-FM radio station is hosting one of the many bus trips that will be departing from South Florida. The $160 roundtrip bus tour is eliminating the need for hotels by leaving early Monday morning and getting back on the road Tuesday night after the inaugural ceremonies and events, said Beverly Williams, the trip coordinator.

“This is not a money maker,” Williams said.  “It’s about giving a lot of people the chance to go.  Let’s be there for Obama.”

About 140 people have registered for the bus tour, which includes four seats that Hot 105 gave away in a drawing, Williams said.  The Motor Coach buses will be picking up in Lauderdale Lakes and at the Golden Glades interchange.

The three buses are scheduled to arrive in D.C. early on Inauguration Day in time for the traditional swearing-in ceremony, which will be followed by the inaugural parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Tour participants will be free to sight-see until the buses board at 11 p.m.

“I can always find things to do,” said Williams, 62, who will be visiting D.C. for the sixth time. “There’s always things to do and things to see.”

Williams is no stranger to the bus tour business. Before Hurricane Katrina, she organized bus tours to the New Orleans Essence Musical Festival. The three years she spent planning trips to New Orleans inspired her to create an affordable trip for those wanting to attend the inauguration.

Williams is also no stranger to politics. Her husband, Levoyd Williams, has served as a Lauderdale Lakes city commissioner and recently ran for mayor of Lauderdale Lakes. Although Levoyd Williams lost the race, his campaign was successful in helping to promote Obama, his wife said.

“Never in my years, would I have believed there would be a black president in my lifetime,” she said.

W.Sessa@UMiami.edu

Photo: Suzan McDowell




IF YOU GO:

Buses for the inauguration are scheduled to leave by 7 a.m. Jan. 19 from the last pickup. Only two seats remained open as of the middle of this week.  For more information, call 954-485-1548.

For more information on Caribbean Inauguration events, visit myspace.com/eastcoastcaribbeanevents for the “Obama Soca-Rama Inauguration Day Fete” event and www.jewelmiami.com for the “Jewel: The Presidential Lime” event.