When her bus trip to Barack Obama’s inauguration in Washington got cancelled, Shirley Opaleke was devastated.

“I just cried and cried and cried,” said the 62-year-old Winnipeg resident, who had interrupted a vacation in Jamaica to come to Toronto and board a chartered bus that had to be cancelled when a number of passengers dropped out at the last minute.

But yesterday, as the noon-hour ceremony approached, Opaleke found solace in Yonge-Dundas Square, where hundreds of Torontonians flocked around two big screens to watch the 44th United States president take the oath.

“The joy I’m feeling ... I just can’t explain it,” Opaleke said, proudly displaying an Obama button pinned to her beret. “The energy from everyone — it’s not just for black people, it’s for everyone.”

Throughout the city, people played hooky — some for an hour, others for the day — gathering in bars, restaurants and schools to witness the historic event.

At Yonge-Dundas Square, the bundled-up spectators stared intently at the screen, shielding their eyes from the glaring midday sun. Some huddled with coffees in hands and shuffled their feet in an effort to keep warm.

Each sighting of Obama set off deafening applause, echoing the crowds in Washington.

“It’s a great historic event, not only for Americans, but for everyone around the world,” said Donia Kelyana, 21. “I just had to be a part of it.”

Group held for 7 hours at border

A group of
young black Canadians on their way to see Barack Obama become U.S.
president say they were detained for seven hours at the U.S. border on
Monday because of racial stereotyping as their passports were checked
and rechecked.

They eventually made it to Washington to see the inauguration of the
44th U.S. president, but only after the long delay at the border.

Tyrone Edwards organized the bus trip to Washington, D.C., for black
youth involved in the Toronto-based Remix Project, a cultural
non-profit group. In total, 168 people made the trek. The buses were
stopped at the Peace Bridge just outside of Buffalo.

According to Edwards, the first two buses cleared customs. But the last
bus was stopped by U.S. customs officers who boarded the vehicle and
asked about 14 young girls all wearing hijabs for their passports.

torstar news service

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