Embedded In Philly: Rally, Canvassing, HQ Insight and Photos


cross-posted to jack & jill politics

This is my second weekend in Philly for Obama. Sorry my blogging has been so low, but I'm in the street most of the day and need to get some sleep at night. Below is a slideshow of my Flickr photos and notes on what I've done and seen/heard so far. Apologies in advance for the rough nature of the notes. Also, the first few photos are from my canvassing trip to philly two weeks ago. This weekend's trip starts with a black and white of a baby.






The rally.

I arrived from NYC Friday evening at 5pm and went to the record-breaking rally. Because of all my insane volunteering, I was given a blue ticket, which put me in the section closest to the stage. I'll upload a photo slideshow in a later post. Standing for three or four ours isn't the most fun thing in the world, but I kept myself occupied meeting other volunteers and snapping shots with the camera. Observations:

  • Security was serious, airport style, get rid of your water bottle intense

  • The music at this Obama rally was horrible. They had lots of time with just the playlist and, for the life of me, I didn't get why there was so much damn country! They could have played the Yes We Can joint or the Obama Reggaeton hit. I just created this Barack The Vote muxtape available for your campaigning pleasure. At one point the crowd actually started chanting, "NO MORE MUSIC" and booed when the next song came on

  • There were so many people

  • I ran into a fellow New Yorker whom I met volunteering for Obama in Dallas. Dallas! And yet we found each other. Nice

  • The crowd was energetic and a bit rowdy. From the video many of you may have seen Obama taking more breaks to deal with the crowd reaction. He was like, "let me finish." We were so hyped. At one point he said something like, "No matter which democrat you support..." and was immediately cut off with cries of "You!!" and "Obama!!" These people were not having any Hillary talk

  • Being in the front and hanging after with volunteers, I completely missed the impromptu multi-thousand strong march down Market Street.


Saturday Canvassing

I'm staying with my boy Sozi Tulante, head of Philly Lawyers For Obama, who lives in the borderlands between University City and West Philly. I started the day at Pam's on 45th and Baltimore. Her eatery is the bomb and is a hub of Obama activity in the neighborhood. Next door, there's Kulture Shop, owned by Aja and Fatin of Kindred The Family Soul, a neo-soul wife-husband group on Hidden Beach Records. They were running a Barack The Vote block party all day, selling t-shirts and donating some of the proceeds to the campaign. If you're in Philly, you must shop here. They have all kinds of styles from local designers, and if you're into kicks, you'll like the selection. I spent way too much money, but I know exactly who it went to, and I feel great about that.

As in Dallas, I've found myself doing get out the vote work in a pretty poor black neighborhood. The themes here in West Philly are similar: overwhelming Obama support, lots of elderly people uncomfortable discussing their vote, people kickin it on the porch and the stoop (it was about 85 degrees I think) and a not-too-infrequent encounter with excon residents. The difference here is that ex-felons can vote. Good.

I came across one Hillary supporter who would not be moved, and as in South Dallas, she was an older black woman who liked Obama but thought Hillary had a lot more experience. I worked all my experience arguments, but she was set. Another older black woman was undecided telling me, "I'll decide once I get there" (meaning the voting booth). I wasn't really satisfied with that option and asked her what she cared about. When I asked about the war, she said we never should have gone in the first place. "Then your choice is clear," I said, "Senator Obama was opposed from the beginning and is your candidate." I left having no idea what she planned to do. I don't think she has any idea either.

One other thing. Sozi was telling me a lot of the people up for local election are photoshopping pictures of them with Barack that never happened, in order to imply that he endorses them. In some races, candidates competing against each other have both done it! That's so triflin!

Saturday Night At The Downtown Campaign HQ

After changing into one of my fly new shirts from Kulture Shop, I headed down to the campaign HQ which was mad active, as you could imagine. They had food laid out, including kosher stuff for Passover observers and piles and piles of people, data and computers.

From talking to a number of campaign volunteers and staffers, I got a clear impression that we have hit this state hard with door-to-door outreach. There are thousands of volunteers across the state. In Philly, there was some controversy about the Obama campaign's unwillingness to pay traditional "street money" to ward leaders for GOTV efforts. Given the turnout of local and out of state volunteers, it looks like that issue is moot.

The highlight of my time at HQ was meeting Elizabeth Wilkins. She's a regional field director for Philly, and I'm trying to secure an interview with her father, Roger Wilkins. Yes, the Roger Wilkins.

Why would I want to interview him? He was the first black columnist at both the Washington Post and then New York Times. He won a Pulitzer along with Woodward and Bernstein for exposing Watergate. He served as Assistant Attorney General under Johnson and was liaison to the civil rights community. His uncle is Roy Wilkins, past executive director of the NAACP. Roger Wilkins lives in DC and is 76 years old, but today, he came to Philly, and canvassed, along with a 69 year old white man, for Barack Obama. Talk about passing the torch! The odds of getting the interview are low, but keep your fingers crossed.

Finally, the best part about being here? I'm unable to stay plugged into the media noise machine. I don't know about polls or the latest lies or any of that nonsense. This is a breath of fresh air.