Anticipation Builds in Harlem, as Election Results for Obama Come In

Harlemites gather at famed corner, moved by a sense of history in the making.

ByABC News
November 4, 2008, 6:11 PM

Nov. 4, 2008— -- All eyes are on Harlem tonight as workers hustled to erect a JumboTron television set where thousands of people hope to watch history in the making -- the election of America's first black president.

"I've lived here all my life, 33 years, and this is the first time I have seen anything like this in Harlem," said Elbert Garcia, a coordinator for Democratic Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York, who is sponsoring the jumbo celebration in the plaza of the New York City neighborhood's state office building.

"Robocall [automated telemarketing phone calls] sent out a message Saturday and told them to press No. 1 if they were coming, and 14,000 responded," Garcia told ABCNews, while directing the activity.

By midafternoon, 125th Street, the heart of Harlem's commercial center, was bustling with street vendors -- many with Obama T-shirts and buttons, hawking CDs, herbal oils and African wood carvings.

Set in the Adam Clayton Powell Plaza, the stage is aptly sandwiched between the iconic Apollo Theater, which launched the musical careers of jazz and blues greats, and the big-box stores, which have come to symbolize Harlem's economic renaissance.

The celebration is expected to draw thousands of ordinary Harlemites, as well as African-American celebrities such as Harry Belafonte and Wynton Marsalis, and perhaps a surprise appearance by actor John Cusack.

"It's going to be crazy," said one security guard, ushering in news trucks.

With a few hours to go before polls close, crews were still erecting bleachers, constructing media platforms and waiting for the arrival of the 33-by-100-foot long, 50-foot high television screen.

"There's going to be a real uproar tonight," said Donna Williams, 47, who was enjoying a relaxing moment on the bleachers. "You know who we voted for: Obama is intelligent, well-spoken and well-educated."

Her husband drew a sly smile, saying, "I voted for McCain," then confessed he was joking.

"There'll be hooting and hollering and some crying," said her husband Curtis Williams, 47.

"From what I've see, they'll be tears of joy," she added.