PARIS A few days before Barack Obama arrived here, the streets of the Marche Dejean, a market in the Chateau Rogue section of the city, were packed with people who chanted his name softly as a tall, slender, young black man approached them.
"Obama, Obama, Obama," they said in singsong fashion as the man, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the senator's image, passed by. The locals call this place "Little Africa" because its tight streets teem with immigrants from former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean.
But these days, the Marche Dejean is Obama country.
Barack Obama is popular throughout Europe. In France, they love him in the shops along the Champs-Elysees, in the cafes of the Left Bank and the schools of the Latin Quarter. But nowhere in Europe is Obama more loved than in the Marche Dejean.
Not since Josephine Baker emerged from the Follies Bergere to become Europe's most popular entertainer more than half a century ago has a black American been so highly regarded by the French.
After a recent spate of stories about Robert Mugabe's violent hold on power in Zimbabwe and the International Criminal Court's indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir on genocide charges, Stevenson said blacks in Paris see Obama's European visit as badly needed good news for their race.
"His success is a great victory of all of us here in France, just as it is for blacks in the United States," said Ricki Stevenson, a transplant from Oakland, Calif. "We just want him to know how all that he has been through and all that he has done impacts blacks here in Paris."
Many Europeans, especially immigrants from African and Caribbean countries, believe their fates are closely linked to the outcome of the American presidential election. Despite the dollar's declining strength and the emergence of China and the European Union as global economic forces, the United States continues to be the dominant world power.The people of the Marche Dejean believe that if Obama is chosen to replace President Bush, their lives will improve dramatically, an opinion Obama certainly hopes many American voters share.
Write Wickham at [email protected].