Greg Fischer, MC 4500
Bar patrons at Reginelli’s Pizzeria on Chimes Street slowly gather to watch, with low-key differences in opinion, the unfolding Presidential election on the big flat screen.
As Senator Obama pulls ahead one patron munches on a large “Tony’s Play” pizza and sips a two-dollar pitcher of Abita Amber beer. He goes by Todd Smith. Smith waits for his son who’s studying next door at Highland Coffees with a tutor.
Smith says he was once mildly prompted by his friend, former Louisiana State Representative, Woody Jenkins, to perhaps challenge incumbent democratic Louisiana Congressman, Don Cazayoux, but that it wasn’t too big a deal.
Smith is a Baton Rouge native and republican voter. Self employed, he works in rental properties and other ventures. He’s come to the bar routinely for a few weeks.
Smith has on a white LSU polo shirt and a nice, friendly smile.
“It looks like you and me aren’t going to get along,” Smith says. He says the issue he is most concerned about is the democrats’ taking Christianity out of American schools. But before long, he pays for his dinner and leaves.
Afterwards, Hannah Campbell, an LSU printmaking grad-student sits at the bar. She spreads out a bunch of art supplies. Drawing and sipping on a rum and coke, she waits for her boyfriend to meet her. She says he knows all about politics. She’s from Georgia. Blake Sanders, Campbell’s boyfriend, arrives shortly after.
Sanders is a young-looking professor of printmaking at Tulane University, from Iowa. Together the two excitedly watch the live MSNBC broadcast over a “Smokin’ Chicken” pizza and a two-dollar pitcher of Abita Amber beer.
“Printmaking is a ‘democratic medium.’ You make multiple copies to give to everyone,” Campbell says.
The topic of U.S. foreign aid in Africa is brought up. Sanders says that Obama returning to the aid of the Darfur region of the Sudan, plagued by genocide, remains to be seen.
During Obama’s live acceptance speech, a million people are somehow rumored to be gathered in Chicago’s Grant Park graciously welcoming the 44th President. A few more drinkers are now gathered at the bar, too.
The actual number of people that gathered in Grant Park, according to Monica Davey of The New York Times, is 240 thousand.
Meanwhile, on Ivanhoe Street someone cries tears of joy at a Champagne party. Another partier waves an American flag in the air for thirty minutes. If Obama would’ve lost the election, rather than Champaign, tequila shots would’ve been served.
The topic of Africa is not on everyone’s mind—maybe not on anyone’s. What about Obama’s?
Despite President Bush’s overall low approval ratings and the first African-American President-elect’s victory, American foreign aid in Africa may actually decrease over the next four years; a sad and strange-seeming fact.
In an article dated Sunday, December 31, 2006, Michael Fletcher, a writer for the Washington Post, describes the often overlooked effort by the Bush Administration to aid Africa.
“The President has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to the world’s most impoverished continent since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010—to nearly $9 billion,” Fletcher writes.
Fletcher says that the Christian evangelicals found out about diseases like AIDS and malaria in impoverished African nations and that’s what sparked President Bush’s increased aid.
“Bush has increased direct development and humanitarian aid to Africa to more than $4 billion a year from $1.4 billion in 2001, according to the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. And four African nations—Sudan, Ethiopia, Egypt and Uganda—rank among the world’s top 10 recipients in aid from the United States,” Fletcher writes.
Dr. Kevin V. Mulcahy, LSU political science professor and executive editor of the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society, explains that we must first distinguish between Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa. Northern Africa, part of the Islamic world, is a completely different story.
“For example, Egypt, along with Israel, is the largest recipient of American aid, principally military and such economic assistance to shore up America’s principle ally in the region,” Mulcahy says.
“It might be noted that the U.S. ranks last among industrialized societies per capita in foreign aid. The Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands rank at the top.
“By the way, this shortfall is not corrected by private charities such as the Red Cross or Catholic Charities,” Mulcahy says; so much for progress.
Obama’s father, a native of Kenya, returned there in 1982 and died in a car accident. Obama must feel ties to at least this region, right?
“Wrong,” says LSU political science and international studies professor, Mark Gasiorowski. “Africa will be a very low priority.”
“Since Obama hasn’t made his blackness a focus in his entire Presidential campaign, he won’t start now. I don’t think he will do anything significant in Africa, unless a crisis flares there, for example in Sudan, Somalia, or Congo,” Gasiorowski says.
Fourth year PhD student in political science, Justin Ulrich, explains those places are historic areas of European colonialism, not to mention the richness of natural gas in Somalia.
“Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea will be the main preoccupations, along with improving relations with Europe and Russia. That’s plenty,” Gasiorowski says.
A few weeks ago, a screening of the film “Invisible Children” was shown on a Monday evening at LSU. “Invisible Children” is a gripping documentary created by three American students about the tragic results of an ongoing 21-year war in the Northern Uganda region in Africa.
The war leaves hundreds of children alone, with no parents in sight and no other option but to stick together.
The cause surrounding the film is gaining momentum. Released over a year ago, the film is on the road, touring universities, and it is not slowing down according to LSU horticulture senior, Matt Bruce.
Bruce, 29, is awaiting a second phone interview from the “Invisible Children” group to intern with them beginning next year. Bruce hosts two specialty shows on 91.1fm, KLSU. One is a reggae show called “Serious Business,” where he goes on air as Ras Ebisu.
“I was first able to catch [“Invisible Children”] in April 2007, when I was on student exchange in Hawaii. It was through an organization known as Revo (short for Revolution) which raises money through art and music and focuses on issues in Africa,” Bruce says. “Revo raises awareness that there are others in need of help.”
Bruce later initiated a Revo in Baton Rouge. He’s white, so his dreadlocks kind of stand out. When asked why he studies horticulture, Bruce replies, “Access to food is certainly a social issue. Maybe one day I’ll be able to link the two.”
A Baton Rouge native, Bruce is positive about Obama’s win over McCain. He expresses no concern about a halt in progress in Sub-Saharan African nations. Perhaps Bruce is correct.
“If Senator Obama wins, he will relate to all people of color,” Dr. Herman O. Kelly of the Manship School says.
One thing is for certain, America voted rather convincingly for a President this year.
“North Carolina hasn’t voted blue since ’76, Indiana since ’64, Virginia since ’64,” Ulrich says. Perhaps it was the youth vote.
“In sum, foreign aid in general and aid to Africa in particular are virtually off the screen in American foreign policy. Whether or not the Obama administration changes this policy orientation remains to be seen. Given the current low levels, foreign aid could not help but go up,” Mulcahy says.