African Americans in California overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama in last week's presidential primary. KPCC's Frank Stoltze spoke with one of them, 70-year-old Ramona Tolliver. She talked about her support for Obama and remembered when she first voted, a half century ago.
Ramona Tolliver: When they told me I could vote, I was in a little town named Lake Charles, Louisiana. So I told my neighbors, "They said we can vote, and I'm going down to vote." They say, "You going down there? I wouldn't go down there!" I said, "But I'm going."
So when I went to the little courthouse, there was a newsman at the counter, and they asked me what I was there for, and I said I was there because they said we could vote! So he said to me, "Do you mind if I take your picture while you register?" I said, "No, not at all." So he said, "When you go home tonight, you will be on TV." So I was proud. I went and I told all my neighbors, "Hey! I'm gonna be on TV tonight!"
Frank Stoltze: What's the most memorable presidential vote that you've cast?
Tolliver: It would be President Kennedy, and Barack Obama. Hopefully he's going to win. Because those were the two men that gave you a reason to want to vote. There's no one yet has excited me as much as Barack Obama, 'cause the most important thing, he brings everybody together. I've made telephone calls, I've walked the street and knocked on doors, I've put yard signs out.
Marsha Turner: My name is Marsha Turner, and Ramona is my mom. She's the Obama mama. (laughs) She drives a little bit, but she doesn't like to drive all over L.A., so I've been her driver, driving her to East L.A., and Hollywood, and UCLA when all the ladies were there with Oprah, and Caroline Kennedy. And she had a little small fundraiser at the house. I picked up all the food, the chicken wings, and the cheese, and the wine.
Stoltze: You ever been this involved in a political campaign before?
Turner: Never. Never have in my life been involved in a campaign like this before.
Stoltze: How important is it that he's a black man?
Tolliver: I don't see color when it comes to the person. I evaluate you on who you are, and how you deal with people. I've never seen color. Color is just another word, so that's a cop-out for most people. I wouldn't call him black, because I wouldn't call myself black either. I go as black, but we're not pure, because my great-great-grandmother was brought here with, she had the scars around her ankles.
They brought her here on a ship from Africa, but then after she got here, white master had babies by her, and therefore I'm a lighter color than the average dark person. So okay, with Barack, he had a black father and a white mother. So he sees no race. He's part of both races. He's part of all the races.
Stoltze: If he gets the nomination, if you work as hard for Barack Obama in the general election as you did in the primary, you're gonna be a very busy woman for the next six months.
Tolliver: I'm willing to do anything. As long as God give me my health and my strength, 'cause I'm a four year cancer survivor, and I will work until my last breath for the right thing. The right cause, the right person, and he is the right person.