5 Years Later: Obama-mania from the 2008 Presidential Election

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

On its fifth anniversary, here’s a photo essay describing that historic day.

By Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

A version of this article was published at The Root on Nov. 4, 2013.

(The Root): Five years ago, The Root launched to deliver news and analysis focused on the issues of black Americans and the greater Diaspora. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t put our conception into context. The creation of our site in January 2008 was in large part because of the success of Barack Obama’s campaign during the presidential primary elections.

Black Twitter didn’t exist then, but black folks were always discussing and parsing issues, and it reached an even heightened pitch when the Obama family came into the nation’s periphery. We wanted to collect those compelling voices into once space so that we might pay homage to a political force that would forever change the trajectory of politics, black culture and the nation.

The 2007-2008 primaries, and subsequent general election, was an interesting political cycle filled with lots of twists and turns. There were those heated exchanges between a then Sen. Barack Obama and his opponent Hillary Clinton. In the end, Obama etched his way onto the general ticket as the Democratic candidate, and went head to head with Sen. John McCain, a seasoned politico and Vietnam veteran. The selection of his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, was also an historic one for the nation. 2008 was the year for black America, but it was also the year for women. Race and gender are forever sitting at an intersection. The Root aspired to be a space where folks could come and engage in those complex conversations as well.

As The Root celebrates our fifth birthday with a refreshing new look, we commemorate the fifth anniversary of Obama’s 2008 election win, by rounding up photos that capture the magic that engulfed that day. 

The Obama’s Vote

Then Sen. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama

That Tuesday morning, the Obamas cast their votes at an elementary school in Chicago. Barack Obama joked that Michelle took so long to fill out her ballot he wanted to check to see if she had actually voted for him.A cute 10-year old Malia Obama watches her parents from the side.

Observers in Kenya

kenyan observers_election night

Kenyan onlookers, who shared an intimate connection with President Obama, who is half-Kenyan, gathered to watch the election results come in on a small television set in town.

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Jay-Z Yearns to Reunite Hip-hop and the Arts

His HBO documentary explains why hip-hop and the arts broke up years ago, and why he’s on a mission to get these two love birds back together.


Jay-Z; Jean-Michel Basquiat

By: Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele

This article was published at The Root on August 2, 2013.

(The Root) – When Jay-Z performed “Picasso Baby” in a swanky New York City art gallery last month, he looked polished in a crisp white button-up and wore one of hip-hop’s most iconic symbols: a gold chain. Just one week prior, exhibits ranging in price from $10,000 to half a million dollars filled the same Chelsea ground-floor space that hosted his six-hour rap performance.

It’s a nice juxtaposition given the history of hip-hop and art. The rapper-turned-business mogul is featured in a new HBO documentary aptly titled Picasso Baby on August 2 that chronicles his performance at the Pace Gallery. HBO is calling it a “performance-arts film” – which is fitting since the project seems to represent a watershed moment for hip-hop and the art’s reemergence as paralleling artforms. In a voiceover for the film’s trailer, Jay-Z said as such: “Rap is painting out loud; concerts are pretty much performance art.”

In recent years, music artists like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West and Swizz Beatz have made explicit attempts to bridge the gap between urban music and the art world. They are all prominent art collectors and whenever they make grandiose purchases, it makes news. The late, great Jean-Michel Basquiat (who rose to fame as an acclaimed artist in the 1980s before his untimely death) is becoming a more familiar name to young black audiences because Jay-Z brags about his Basquiat purchases in his verses.  

Hat-tipping the art world is extending beyond the lyrics. Just take a look at Jay-Z’s avant-garde rap performance at the Pace Gallery, Kanye West projecting his New Slaves music video on buildings across the globe in May, and how Solange Knowles recently performed inside a laundry mat in Brooklyn. It is becoming increasingly clear that the leading artists in urban music view their craft as performance art. They are taking clear steps to blur the lines between these two mediums, that are sometimes perceived to be on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.

During a recent interview on his Life+Times website, Jay-Z talked about how he was sort of disappointed that hip-hop and the arts became estranged. Especially since rappers and artists back in the 1980s had a close relationship and lived parallel lives. “When art and music were one,” Jay-Z reminisced, “When Basquiat was hanging out with Madonna and Fab 5 Freddy and all those worlds were colliding.” The rappers rapped, he described, and their artist friends worked right alongside them with spray bottles in hand to create the most elaborate graffiti displays in our inner-cities.

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