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Mr. Obama's Washington

Washingtonians celebrated as one, but can a black president unite Washington and D.C.?


“I brushed the boots of Washington.”

---Langston Hughes in “Negro”

On the day it became Mr. Obama’s Washington, steam still fogged the windows at Henry’s, a soul food staple not far from the White House. Go-go music still blasted from loud speakers at the corner of 7th and U. The U Street club Republic Gardens still amused overeducated members of the darker nation. After sundown, most black people still lived, played and ate and learned, due east, and most whites still lived, played, and learned due west.

Same as it ever was in the nation’s capital.

Minutes after Barack Obama solemnly swore on Lincoln’s bible, there were still no signs of black paint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and D.C. native Brandon John-Freso sat at a U Street restaurant and shrugged. “You can’t just all of a sudden reverse everything,” said the 19-year-old Montgomery College student. “It’s been set up that way for decades.”

He said he was thrilled about the new president and what Obama might mean for race relations in his hometown, but, he added. “I’m still kind of fighting my cynicism.”