“This is a Harlem tea party,” said Chet Whye, director of Harlem 4 Obama. “This is about ‘civilitea.’ But don’t let the smooth taste fool you.”
Members of Harlem 4 Obama, which helped register thousands of voters during Obama’s 2008 election campaign, passed out cups of iced tea as demonstrators held signs that read: “Increased Funding for Violence Against Women,” and “This Election is About You! Are You in?”
“Our premise is that we have allowed the Tea Party to shape the debate,” Whye said. “We’re going to take back the definition of tea party. They wanted to define us, we’re redefining them.”
Whye said Harlem 4 Obama members would heed the example of those who peacefully demonstrated during the Civil Rights Movement.
“In their quiet dignity, they went up against dogs and firehouses in Selma,” Whye said. “They came back with the moral authority.”
Oscar Carter, 65, of Harlem, told the crowd: “President Obama, we want you to know, Harlem has your back!”
Tekima Berlack, a retired social worker who was born and reared in Harlem, said, in some instances, racism has fueled the vitriolic criticism of the president.
“I think it’s racism,” said Berlack, who held up a sign that read “Expand Pell Grants for Low Income Students.”
“I think anything the man does – they work against him,” Berlack added. “The man is trying to save the country. They have an agenda, and I’m out here because we need an agenda. It’s critical that we elect Obama in 2012.”
Marva Allen, owner of Harlem’s famed Hue-Man Bookstore, said Obama has weathered some of the worst crises to ever face a sitting president “with dignity, pride and strong morality.”
“If that’s not the American Dream, I don’t know what is,” Allen said. “We have no doubt the right person is in the White House.”
Allen then reminded protesters that Obama wasn’t responsible for the failed economic policies that were in place before he took office.
“What has happened in America is not because of him,” Allen said. “It started 40 years ago, at the beginning of the age of greed. Don’t be bamboozled by what’s happening. Listen to your heart. Listen to your head.”
Steve Leser, a political blogger and pundit, told the crowd that he’d spent time at the Occupy Wall Street protests over the weekend. He said Obama’s proposals – like tax increases for millionaires and the American Jobs Act – would help “the 99%.”
Korkie Moore-Bruno, an activist and housewife from northern Westchester County, said she was here to support Obama and his proposed American Jobs Bill.
Moore-Bruno held up a sign that was attached to a U.S. flag: “Tell Congress to Pass the Jobs Bill Now,” and “Four more for 44.”
“I’m specifically here for [Obama's] reelection and to bring the jobs bill to the public’s attention,” Moore-Bruno said. “We need to pass this bill for all Americans, not just Harlem.”