The Black Pack

Ten to watch in Mr. Obama's Washington.

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  • New Black City

    Meet Washington’s “Black Pack“: Baptized by fire during the grueling two-year presidential campaign, they counted delegates, crunched polls, spun the press, worked doors and phones, and brought America its first African-American president.

    Click on to see how far they’ve come.

  • A Guy Who Gets It

    Joshua DuBois was largely responsible for the ground Barack Obama made up among religious voters on November 4. He says, of seeing then state senator Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic convention: “When he talked about worshipping an awesome God I said, ‘Well, here’s a guy who gets it.'”

  • Preacher Men

    Obama and DuBois in Selma, Alabama. The Obama camapign held over 200 informal “faith forums” in barbershops, town halls, and church basements in the leadup to the crucial South Carolina primary. The meetings would prove a template for the general election faith offensive.

  • Faith in Action

    In Washington, DuBois will lead 70 staffers in 12 government agencies in an effort to remake faith in politics. He told The Root: “There’s so much ground to be made up for a Democrat who’s not afraid to engage on values issues, and trying to reframe what it means to stand up to values and which values are important in political discourse.”

  • Listen Up!

    Elizabeth Wilkins, seen here with her staff in South Carolina, says the Obama effect is real: “There are a lot of people who now care about campaigns, care about electoral politics—and have a different way to think about doing field [work]. There are so many more voices in the room, which is incredible.”

  • Poster Girl

    Wilkins, seen here with other organizers in Michigan, was the only black female director of a battleground state. On November 4, Obama carried Michigan by over 800,000 votes.

  • Generation O

    Wilkins, whose family has a storied history of fighting for civil rights, was raised to think “your job is to believe in this country and to fight for it if you have the means and the ability.” In Washington, she’ll carry the torch as an aide in the Domestic Policy Council.

  • Barack The Vote

    Michael Blake rallies potential caucus-goers on the day of the Des Moines Register-sponsored Democratic debate in Iowa. The December 2007 meeting featured Obama’s memorable exchange with Hillary Clinton: “I’m looking forward to you advising me, Hillary.” Zing!

  • Change He Can Believe In

    Blake was chosen for the first class of Obama’s “Yes We Can” training program. He thinks it marks the future of organizing in America: “For too long, and too many times, diversity hasn’t been present—and that is not the case anymore.”

  • Fix Up, Look Sharp

    In their new jobs, Michael Blake and Addisu Demissie are both working to make Obama’s agenda accessible and popular among local governments and ordinary Americans. The two share a laugh at The Root‘s White House photo shoot.

  • Boiler Room

    Demissie manages turf with organizers in Ohio. He says: “There are few other places in the world where you can be 27 or 28 years old and have real management experience.”

  • Champagne for My Real Friends

    Demissie gets a kiss on the dome from Ravi Gupta, another law school classmate now serving as Susan Rice’s special assistant at the United Nations, shortly after the race is called for Obama in Ohio.

  • Democrats 2.0

    The first National Political Director of Organizing for America, Demissie says he’ll tap a network of campaign veterans. “You’ll ask, ‘How many states did you do in the primary; where were you on Election Night?’ Those people are going to be forever linked and part of the same political network.”

  • Do You Want Hope With That?

    Samantha Tubman criss-crossed the country on the Obama campaign plane. In one state, the press bus broke down in front of a strip club; in another, a flying burrito ruined her outfit. At this stop in Reno, Nevada, the candidate’s microphone went out. “You have to be ready for anything,” she says.

  • East Wing Warrior

    As White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers’ deputy, Tubman will oversee the dozens of events—for politics or pleasure—that pass through “the people’s house” each week.

  • Fired Up

    Yohannes Abraham preps a crowd for Michelle Obama at a community center in Des Moines, Iowa in 2007. He says now that, black or white, “There’s not a whole lot that I wouldn’t do for folks that were in Iowa and South Carolina, back when no one thought we could do it.”

  • Ready to Go

    On the trail, Abraham was almost always the youngest guy in the room. That hasn’t changed, but he’s still excited to be in the West Wing, “helping get stuff done.”

  • UnConventional Women

    Myesha Ward poses with friend Eureka Gilkey, another black campaign veteran and the new White House Liaison for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, during a break in speeches during the Democratic National Convention.

  • Rack 'Em Up

    The very convincing Ward banked dozens and dozens of the 478 superdelegates that Obama needed to clinch the Democratic nomination. “I love doing what I do,” she says. “Despite the differences, you really learn what issues concern people, and find different ways to bring people under the same umbrella.”

  • Put Your Hands Up

    In addition to The Root‘s featured females, dozens of black women worked the trail for Obama. From right to left: Eureka Gilkey, Treshawn Shields, Kimonia Alfred, Danielle Gray, Adrienne Cooper, Myesha Ward, and Samantha Tubman.

  • A Few Good Men

    Some of the boys stroll toward 1600 Pennsylvania during The Root‘s White House photo shoot.

  • Belle Du Jour

    Jason Green oversaw dozens of visits for key Obama surrogates during his stints organizing in South Carolina, Nevada, Maryland, Wisconsin, Connecticut and North Carolina. Here, the future FLOTUS extends a hand to supporters, while Green looks on.

  • Blue Carolina

    Green poses with field staff in Charlotte, North Carolina–which went blue for the first time since 1964. He adds: “Anytime you’re bringing more states into play is an opportunity, and Barack put more states in play than ever before.”

  • Raising the Bar

    Green will serve in the Office of Legal Counsel under Obama.

  • Made You Look

    Black Packer Samantha Tubman encourages all Americans to get involved: “Fifteen years from now, I think a lot of people will look back at this campaign and say, ‘Hey, I can pack up a suitcase and travel the country for two years,’ because a lot of people—black, white young, old—did it.”

  • Yes.We.Can

    Plenty of high-profile surrogates would show up with our ten on the campaign trail. Elizabeth Wilkins and Alexander Lofton pose here with one of the best-known celebs: Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas and the now-famous “Yes We Can” video.

  • The 7/11 Campaign

    Lofton worked a punishing schedule during the two-year, 24-hour campaign: “Our focus was it’s now or never,” he says. “The consequences of not electing Barack Obama were too great.”

  • Stand and Deliver

    Lofton brought a soldier’s mentality to political organizing: “I am not one to go overseas and fight, but I am definitely one to fight where I can,” he says. “To talk about getting in a car headed to Georgia and being driven by your ancestry and your history is a powerful thing.”

  • Always On Call

    Jason Green and Marlon Marshall share a laugh during The Root‘s White House photo shoot. In the distance, Joshua DuBois takes a conference call.

  • 18 Million Cracks

    Marshall, seen here repping his old (and new) boss, says the primary battle was worth it: “You could really see the investment—training volunteers to take action in their communities is a life-changing experience.”

  • 100,000 Plus One

    Marshall warms up a record-breaking crowd of 100,000, gathered to hear Obama’s closing campaign argument in Saint Louis, Missouri, on October 18th, 2008.

  • Ready on Day One

    Marshall reflects on his road to the White House: “I’ve done campaigns for years—so it’s interesting to see the other side. Usually you work your heart out putting somebody there, and now you see how the government works.”

  • The Young and the Restless

    Michael Strautmanis, a key White House manager and chief of staff to senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, says The Root‘s Talented Ten “do all the work, get no attention and very soon will run the world.” Watch out!

    (White House photos by Marvin Joseph for The Root / The Washington Post)

    Read more about the Talented Ten here.

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