By Rosie Spinks
City on a Hill Press Reporter

Drum beats and chants of ‘GO-BAMA’ reverberated through Pacific Avenue Tuesday, as scores of Santa Cruz citizens celebrated the inauguration of the first African-American president.

The festivities, sponsored by the Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom, began at the Santa Cruz Courthouse with live music and speakers and then continued down Pacific Avenue with a parade that ended at the town clocktower.

“This is America at its best,” said Maggie Kopecke, a first-grade teacher from Los Gatos. “Everyone is out here expressing their joy and celebrating a change of power, not rioting.”

The joyous singing, dancing and chanting was a far cry from the economic fear and pessimism that has plagued the news in the past few months. The common themes of the exuberant gathering were optimism, excitement and hope.

Lifelong Santa Cruz resident Debra Jones cheered and danced as she watched the parade go by and expressed her enthusiasm for the occasion.

“History has been made today,” she said. “I feel like everything is going to be OK; I feel the love — it’s everywhere!”

Creative homemade signs peppered the vivacious crowd demanding ‘Healthcare,’ ‘Green Jobs,’ ‘Human Rights For All,’ ‘No Blockade of Cuba,’ and one declaring that the unpopular Bush administration is officially ‘Out.’

The cynicism and complacency that have become common in the past eight years were not apparent. Greg Byram, a UC Santa Cruz fourth-year, said he responds to any potential cynics with a sense of optimism.

“Change has to start somewhere,” he said. “If it’s not ideal at least it’s a start.”

A massive 20-foot statue of Lady Liberty swayed to old protest songs played by a live band. Grant Wilson, Santa Cruz resident and the man behind the Lady Liberty costume, emphasized the importance of getting involved in the community. In 1998, he founded a political street theater group called Art and Revolution Convergence that promotes the positive power of activism.

“This time of transition is an opportunity for us to become more active and push for the things we value,” he said. “Try getting involved — any kind of creative action is therapeutic and transformational.”

Wilson embodies the era of responsibility that Barack Obama has pushed for with his call for Americans to serve their communities and his promise of a more transparent and interactive government.

Jonah Van Adam, a 10-year-old elementary school student from Watsonville, was actively participating in the occasion despite his young age.

“As an African-American myself, I’m excited. With his thoughts and ideas I think [Obama] can change the world.”