COLUMBIA — As members of the NAACP gathered around the big-screen television at Second Baptist Church to hear President-elect Barack Obama give his acceptance speech, the pride in their eyes made it seem as though they were in Chicago listening and watching in person.
They cheered, applauded, nodded in agreement and chanted "yes we can" right along with the crowd as if they were.
"I am jubilant," said the Rev. Annie Gardner after she watched Obama win the election. "I have lived to see the miracle of togetherness. I have lived to see what can be accomplished if we do it together. We have to put aside color, and (we) look at each other as brothers and sisters. This is a dawning of a new day."
"My grandson can be president if he so desires," Gardner continued, holding her 1 ½-year-old grandson in her arms. "People won't look at him and say ‘What are you doing black boy?' They'll say ‘you can do whatever you want, reach for the stars ... reach for the stars."
Others at the watch party shared Gardner's joy. Each time it was announced on the television that Obama had won a state, the room erupted with cheers and the sound of dozens of plastic hand-clappers clacking together. When it was announced that he had won the election, everyone in the room stood up to cheer, high five and hug one another.
"It's just history in the making, especially to be here with friends and co-workers, it's just wonderful," said Mary Ratliff, president of the Missouri and local chapters of the NAACP. "There's just no words. There's so much we endured and overcame over the years to get the opportunity for our people to vote and have it pay off in this manner."
Other members shared Ratliff's excitement to be together watching the historic moment.
"This is part of the NAACP," Ratliff's husband, Lonnie Ratliff, said of the group's shared spirit. "We do things together."
"It has been blood, sweat and tears to get here," Mary Ratliff told the gathering before the group joined hands and prayed. "But it has been the prayers that got us here. We prayed earlier after the polls closed, and we will pray now. Obama has won, but there is still a big challenge ahead. We are going to pray we can come together not just as a people, but as a nation."
Several older members of the group at the church said they never thought they would live to see the day that a black person would be elected president. Some, however, always held onto hope.
"I knew this day would come because I have faith in the Lord," Ceola Hill said. "I knew it would come in due time."
The group was overjoyed and filled with pride for Obama's achievement, but they realized there is still a long road ahead.
"Now it's time to go to work," Rod Kelly said. "A lot of people look at this as an ending, but it's just the beginning."
"It's a great day in America, but the work is just beginning," Larry Monroe added.