Following Biden’s victory, ‘overjoyed’ supporters celebrate in downtown Lexington

Biden/Harris supporters celebrate the results of the presidential election, cheering and dancing as passing cars honked in solidarity on Nov. 7, 2020. Photo by Natalie Parks.

Natalie Parks

In New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, thousands of Americans took the streets to celebrate Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential election, an outcome announced the morning of Saturday, Nov. 7.

In Lexington, the celebration was more modest – a crowd of 20 or so Biden/Harris supporters gathered Saturday afternoon at the edge of Triangle Park, chanting and cheering as passing cars honked in solidarity.

“This is what democracy looks like!” was a frequent chant among the revelers; most said their primary feeling was one of relief.

“My friends who are Black, who are LGBTQ, who are immigrants, women, I think we all have just taken a deep breath and after feeling we haven’t been able to breathe for a long time,” Julie Martinez said. 

Martinez, the founder of Bluegrass Activist Alliance, organized the small celebration within a couple hours of hearing of Biden’s victory. She said she “cried and cried” when she heard the news.

“I was a little surprised how emotional I felt over it, especially since it’s been going for days now as we’ve been waiting for the results,” Martinez said. She founded BAA after Donald Trump was elected in 2016 because she felt she had to do something.

“He’s not the cause of the problem in our country, he’s a symptom of the problem in our country, but I think the last four years of his presidency along with the pandemic, along with all of the calls for racial justice that we’ve heard in the last year have really just opened the curtain to the problems that already exist here in the U.S. and in Kentucky,” Martinez said of Trump.

Cynthia Berry was walking through downtown Lexington when she saw the small group of celebrators and knew she had to stop.

“I got to go celebrate too because I know this is a good day for the American people,” Berry said. “I know there’s still issues going on with the American government…but this is a way to be paving forward for the future of America and our younger generations to make sure that everyone’s equal and safe.”

Berry heard about Biden’s election from her mother, who told her earlier in the morning to go look at who the new president was.

“It was Biden and i just felt so excited and happy and I didn’t feel scared anymore,” Berry said.

Many in attendance were campaigners for Biden or Kentucky Democrat Amy McGrath. But for Jeresa Hammonds and Marisa Hall, the real cause of joy was Kamala Harris’s ascension to the White House.

Hammonds and Hall stopped by the celebration for a few minutes, saying there were no words to describe how they felt besides overjoyed.

“It’s deeper than just a Democrat, it’s the fact that we have the choice to do this. It’s deeper than the history, the fact that we have the choice to do this shows this is a democracy and it’s a move forward and it’s progression; it’s deeper than first black, first openly gay, first anything – it shows you can do anything in this democracy,” Hammonds said.

Hall said she would like to see Biden begin his tenure by tackling police brutality.

“Let’s go ahead and start arresting these police officers that aren’t doing exactly what they’re supposed to, and that’s protect and serve,” Hall said.

Hammonds echoed the sentiment on a broader scale.

“We should have an open discussion about hate period, not even from the police but from other people, getting an understanding coming together…I want to see people understand each other and love each other,” Hammonds said.

Supporters of Biden and Harris acknowledged that there was change and progress that had to come.

“There’s a lot of things that he has to fix but right now today feels different,” said Nicki Burgess, a Cincinnati resident, of Biden’s start in the White House.

Burgess was in Lexington celebrating with friends, posing for a photo with a bottle of champagne as the group celebrated around her.

As a mother, Burgess said she felt like Biden’s victory was a great day.

“I knew I didn’t see a way out unless he won,” Burgess said. Burgess grew up in Kentucky and said change was possible here even though Mitch McConnell won his race, saying the state had great leaders like Charles Booker. 

“I think it’s really going to be something because we need it to be something,” Burgess said of the change in leadership.

Martinez’s priorities for the Biden administration are the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, education and healthcare.

“This is not the end of the work,” Martinez said. “This is honestly the beginning of the work, it’s the continuation of the work that’s been going on for decades. It’s not time to stop.”

Martinez said she is hopeful that we can begin to move forward with Biden as president.

“I hope that as Kentuckians and as Americans that we can start looking at the things we have in common and…focus on finding commonality around those things so that we can move forward [and] solve the problems of our country.”