Hopes for President Barack Obama's visit to Harlem are as high as the level of funds in his war chest, but this visit uptown is intended to show that donations toward the president's reelection don't all come from high rollers. Whether or not that intention will be realized is another issue.
One thing is for certain, however. The level of enthusiasm among Harlem residents regarding the president's Thursday night visit is intense.
"Yes, yes, yes! The president is coming!" Susie Duplessy told PIX11 News from in front of the Apollo Theater marquee.
The reason for her joy is not only the president's arrival in her neighborhood, but also the fact that he now becomes the first sitting president to visit the historic Apollo Theater, an icon of African-American culture and history.
The event, dubbed "A Night To Remember" by its organizers, the Obama Victory Fund, is meant to attract everyday people with its relatively affordable basic ticket price of $100 each. A spokeswoman from the Apollo told PIX11 News that the highest priced ticket for the event is $5000, which includes a photo with the president. While that's a big expense for most people, it's a discount compared to the $30,000 per person admission charged at Obama's last major fundraiser in Harlem, at trendy Red Rooster restaurant last March.
The lower ticket price, however, increased demand, leaving some Obama supporters disappointed. "There's no more tickets," Maribeth Jones said. She'd just stepped away from the Apollo Theater box office, where she had tried to make a purchase. The Obama Campaign, however, was the ticket broker, not the theater, and the campaign had closed the sale almost as soon as it began. Virtually all of the people who got tickets were longstanding supporters from the president's 2008 campaign. sold the tickets, which are long gone.
"No, I don't have a ticket," Barbara Askins told PIX11 News. She's an Obama supporter and is the founding CEO of the 125th Street Business Improvement District. Under her 18 years of leadership, Harlem's main street has attracted huge retail outlets like Staples, H&M and Starbucks and it continues to be transformed into a vibrant business zone. And she can't get a ticket.
"But it's more than just about me," Askins said. "I'm happy [the president] is in my district. It's great for 125th Street."
Anyone not among the 1508 people who can fit in the Apollo has to try and get a glimpse from outside. Possibly way outside. NYPD crowd control barricades line the entire route of President Obama's expected motorcade, from the RFK Triborough Bridge on the East River all the way across Harlem on 125th Street to the Apollo.
The campaign is obviously trying to showcase the president as being a man of the people. For most in Harlem, it's working, but not for everyone. The group Occupy Harlem, along with fourteen other community groups, organized a demonstration for "an end to wars, free trade agreements, attacks on civil liberties." The demonstration was scheduled for 6:45 across the street from the Apollo Theater.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times