Barack Obama will be our new president.

As I write this, I can hear people gleefully honking horns outside. D.C. is in a joyful uproar. This is basically like a World Series victory here … except none of our sports teams get this kind of support (in a transient town, the away team always has a huge following). All the bars were showing election results this evening. Obama won over 94 percent of the vote in D.C. Many of those D.C.  Democrats spent a lot of time campaigning in Virginia, which also went blue.

I watched the returns in a civilized setting at a friend’s apartment in the Commonwealth. But then on our way home, I had to stop and observe the impromptu street parties taking place across the city. The U Street corridor was basically transformed into a big street fair. People walked down the middle of the street, giving high-fives, hugging and shouting “O-bam-A! O-bam-A!” They parked their cars in the middle of intersections and were playing music, wildly waving their arms and honking horns. Some people marched along hitting spoons on kitchen pots. People stood and held up Obama-Biden signs. At one intersection, a bunch of people played African drum beats while another crowd danced on the top of a bus stop. People blasted off fireworks. One guy was selling Obama victory T-shirts. Ethiopians were dancing like crazy at Dukem restaurant. A bunch of white kids gleefully played tambourines on the corner of 18th street.

I walked around for a few minutes and left around 1:30. The crowds seemed to be getting bigger, not smaller.

Some police officers looked on — I think a bit dumfounded. On the one hand, people aren’t supposed to be having an impromptu riot in the middle of 14th Street. But on the other hand, no one was really doing anything harmful. Everyone was happy. No one was destroying anything. I didn’t even see anyone with alcohol or open containers. The mood was very celebratory and positive. I only saw one negative McCain-Palin sign.

The intersection of 14th and U was the epicenter of violent race riots in the 1960’s after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Tonight it was the center of positive interracial, multi-cultural celebration … and maybe even a little racial reconciliation. People exchanged high fives and hugs. As one white man and black man embraced, I heard the white guy say, “Things are cool with us, right? White people and black people.” His new friend replied, “yeah.” White guy:”With young people, it’s cool. That stuff is in the past.”

I don’t think this election or one celebratory embrace can erase centuries of racial strife. But I hope the high-five hugging spirit sticks around for a while.

(ps It’s 2:30 a.m. The kids are still honking their horns.)

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