Berkeley celebrates Obama era

Marcus Bishop,

Attendees greeted each other with hugs and high-fives. They drank beer, embraced, smiled, laughed and danced to the brass band sounds of “The Saints Go Marching In,” “Lean on Me” and “The Hokie Pokie.” It seemed as if they already knew one another, but many were complete strangers before they showed up to the parade.

On Jan. 28 more than 100 people joined the “Goodbye Obama” parade, a New Orleans-inspired line parade that celebrated Barack Obama’s two terms as president. The crowd — many of them dressed in top hats, pin stripes, boas and blazers — met at Fellini’s Coffeebar in Berkeley and danced its way down University Avenue until reaching Strawberry Creek Park, about 10 minutes away. There, people enjoyed food, drinks and music together.

Jolie Karno, a Louisiana native and Berkeley local, organized the event to commemorate former president Barack Obama. Karno hopes to begin a non-profit social organization this year.  

“I’m a native of New Orleans, so I couldn’t think of anything more fun and positive than a second line parade in his honor,” Karno said.

In President Donald Trump’s first week in office, he implemented several controversial executive orders, including clearance of the Dakota Access Pipeline, construction of “The Wall” at the US-Mexico border and a ban on refugees from 7 primarily Muslim countries.

“I don’t know about you, but if your Facebook newsfeed is like mine, it’s been armageddon for the last week,” said Josh Kaplin, a Berkeley resident. “Today is a bright spot in all the darkness.”

Onlookers applauded and shouted in support of the parade and Obama. Some of them joined the festivities. “Hoorays” and chants echoed down University Avenue as Underpass Brass, an Oakland-based brass band, played music. The energy of the band, coupled with the second line parade goers in New Orleans costume, left some looking confused, others curious.  

Parade-goers interviewed by the Pioneer discussed the election, its implications and the future of our country.

“I would like to see California remain as strong and beautiful as it’s always been and to potentially chart it’s own path, should the rest of nation descend into madness,” said Javier Ruiz of Berkeley.

People at the event also discussed Obamacare, an affordable — and highly criticized — healthcare plan and one of the cornerstones of Obama’s time in office.

“I was between jobs and couldn’t afford medical coverage, but with [Obamacare], I was able to,” said Andrea Mauer of Berkeley. “Without having that, I wouldn’t have been able to obtain birth control or get my annual wellness check.”

There was consensus among parade goers when it came to respect and admiration for Obama. Many shared why Barack Obama was inspirational to them, and why he was such a unique president.

“He provided me with a vision of what a person of color looks like in the highest office in our country,” said Andrea Mauer, a Berkeley local. “He inspired the idea that it could even become a possibility.”