A sense of patriotism and pride filled the plaza outside the Harlem State Building as hundreds gathered on Tuesday to celebrate the inauguration of President Barack Obama.
American flags of all sizes flew above the crowd, cries of “God bless America” permeated the frigid air and red, white and blue graced the clothes and posters seen all around.
Martine Edjuku roughed the cold to join in celebrating this potential turning point for her new homeland. In her hand, she waved a copy of the Daily News, opened to an article headlined, “A Nation Ready to See History.”
For Edjuku, Obama’s presidency embodies not only hope for America but also for struggling countries around the world, such as her native Democratic Republic of the Congo. She said the inspiration Obama has brought to the American people has set an example worldwide.
In 2005, Edjuku fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo to escape ongoing violence and human rights violations, heightened during two bloody civil wars dating back to the mid-1990s. Since arriving in America, Edjuku has been granted asylum, ensuring she won’t have to return to the fear-filled land she still holds dear.
As a new American, Edjuku said Obama’s election was an inspiration. “It’s a big story today,” she exclaimed, proudly pointing to the paper in her hand. “I’m excited, and I’m very, very happy.”
Edjuku said she wishes her native Democratic Republic of the Congo could see the same sort of hope and change she has seen in America over the past months. Though she witnessed genocide, hatred and violence in her native country, Edjuku said watching Obama’s campaign and election have made her hopeful for her homeland.
“I hope there will be quiet and peace in my country,” she said. “When I see this American story, I think the next people will be us, the Congolese people.”