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Activist determined to bring kids to Obama inauguration

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By Beth Reinhard, Miami Herald

Democratic ConventionPresident-elect Barack Obama‘s inaugural committee trumpets that it is committed to “making this the most open and accessible inauguration in history.”

Tell that to Eufaula Frazier, an 84-year-old community activist in Liberty City, who has struggled for weeks to organize a bus trip to Washington for a group of underprivileged kids from Liberty City, Carol City and Miami Gardens.

Frazier has been to every Democratic national convention since 1972 and every Democratic inauguration since 1977. She’s not about to miss this one. And she insists that she won’t go to Washington without making sure at least one child gets to see history in the making.

”I want little boys and little girls to know that they can be anything they want to be,” Frazier said during an interview in her modest home facing a street with many boarded-up businesses. A lone Obama yard sign substitutes for landscaping.

”When they are older, they will always remember this inauguration,” Frazier added. “The youth of today is standing on our shoulders.”

Frazier initially signed up several chaperones and more than a dozen children, a mix of family members and kids that she has met through her community work. With no hotels to be found in Washington, she arranged for the children to stay at the assisted living facility where her nephew works in a Maryland suburb.

Then Christmas came and went, and one by one, all but five of the kids dropped out, unable to get together the $600 to cover transportation, room and board. Frazier thought about organizing a spaghetti dinner to raise money, but it never got off the ground. There wasn’t enough time to apply for a grant.

So she’s been soliciting small donations — checks of $25, $15, $10 — through a small nonprofit called the Beaulah A. Graham Smith Scholarship Fund.

Founded in 1991 by her sister-in-law in Chicago, the group says it has helped 50 ”at-risk” children make it through school. The very first scholarship recipient, the nonprofit brags, went on to become a Miami-Dade County schoolteacher who graduated with a 3.8 grade point average from Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black college in Daytona Beach.

Among the kids who had to bow out of the trip is one of Frazier’s grandchildren, Martavis Frazier, a good student and accomplished wrestler at Monsignor Edward Pace, a Catholic high school in Miami Gardens.

”They weren’t that upset,” Frazier said. “They come from communities where you have to make do with what you have. The children understand the struggle of their parents.”

This week, Frazier had to scramble when she learned that the bus company had promised her bus to someone else who came in with a deposit. It costs $5,400 for the bus and two drivers to go straight through to Washington, a 16-hour trip.

But getting there may be the easy part for the five kids, ages 3 to 20.

Between 1.5 and 3 million people are expected to try to get a glimpse of Obama’s swearing-in. Many bridges and highways, some subway stations and whole swaths of downtown streets will be closed on Inauguration Day. No umbrellas allowed.

Add the challenges posed by portable restrooms and freezing temperatures, and you’ve got a logistical nightmare.

Frazier has challenges of her own in trying to organize the trip. She has no answering machine and no cellphone, and her phone rings busy when she’s on the computer, which is often. She uses a walker and a wheelchair outside her house. She’s still undecided about whether she can manage the long bus trip. Back-up plane ticket? Not yet.

The day before the inauguration, Frazier hopes to take the kids to the Martin Luther King parade in Washington and to see one of the national monuments or Smithsonian museums. Everything is expected to be mobbed.

They also hope to stop by the Capitol Hill office of U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami.

Meek holds the seat once belonging to his mother, Carrie Meek, among the first African-Americans elected to Congress from Florida since Reconstruction.

”To see Obama, with one hand in the air and one hand on the Bible, across from the Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King gave his speech — it will be worth the trouble,” Meek said.

The long odds facing Frazier are clear to state Sen. Frederica Wilson, who runs a dropout prevention program in Miami for black boys and took 100 kids to see the Electoral College votes cast in Tallahassee.

”There will be too many people, and it’s too difficult to maneuver and go in and out of Washington,” Wilson said. “You’ll have all these children in the icy cold trying to walk somewhere without any tickets.”

So what keeps Frazier going and going, refusing to accept that this trip may be too ambitious for an elderly woman to organize on her own?

”The whole community has got Obama fever,” she said. ‘They say, `That Eufaula Frazier, if she says she’s going to do it, then she’s going to do it.’ ”


Written by Symphony

January 11, 2009 at 10:38 am

3 Responses

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  1. Eufaula is just a great American. I met her in 1969 as a VISTA worker and via her work I got interested in City Plan-
    ning versus Architecture and ended up in Chicago as the Dir-
    ector of Planning. I’m retired now, but I just wanted to thank her for impacting my life in a positive way and let her know that I too supported Obama. Maybe some day I’ll be able to make it back to see her again and talk about the
    Bud/Bob days, but I just want to thank her again for everything that she’s done and continuing to do.

    Bob Foster

    January 29, 2009 at 2:32 pm

  2. Hi! I just found your site through google and I love 🙂 I’m actually an editor for Sister 2 Sister and I see that you linked our old site — thanks! Be sure to check out our newly launched site,

    — Whitney


    February 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  3. […] You can read more about EuFaula Frazier here. […]

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