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Obama's Dallas Beachhead -- And the Food Ain't Bad, Either

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While Hillary Clinton stumps in South Texas and Bill's in East Texas, local Barack Obama supporters have commandeered Texas Caribbean Foods, a cozy restaurant at Southside on Lamar, as a gathering place and center of operations. They’re busy making phone calls to garner more foot soldiers and holding meetings on outreach strategy, the delegate selection process and the nuts and bolts of Texas’ rather confounding primary system.

The colorful little eatery may seem an unlikely place for a campaign hub, but only at first glance. On the bright orange walls hangs a framed painting of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, as well as a collection of oil paintings by local artist Mark Crow that portray African American workers harvesting crops. Owner Jan Gore, an African American Democrat who was born and raised in Dallas and once worked for Ann Richards, is a passionate Obama supporter.

“I came out of [political] retirement for Obama,” she told Unfair Park at the restaurant yesterday while at a nearby table a campaign worker typed on a laptop. “He’s the embodiment of what we need in this country today. There have been black people who ran, but they appealed to a limited group,” she went on, referring to old-school icons such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. “But he has a purpose for all people. My mother is 84 years old. She probably never thought she’d live to see a viable black candidate for president of the United States.”

Many southern Dallas supporters have visited the restaurant to help the campaign with its local game plan, she said, including city council member Dwayne Caraway and state Senator Royce West.

Gore can relate to Obama’s community organizing experience. She says the restaurant does volunteer catering for area non-profits such as Women in Film, and she recently spearheaded a voter registration drive with the goal of having every Southside resident registered. “This building is geared toward community, so it was very natural to work with the Obama team,” she said. “He’s a natural for this kind of environment.”

On Sunday, Gore will, of course, attend the Obama rally at Fair Park at which former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk will be the featured speaker. She’s also launching a book club meeting at the restaurant on the same day. “There aren’t just women in the club, there are men, too,” she was careful to point out. “It deals with all races and genders.” And what will their first book be? Obama’s Audacity of Hope, of course. -- Megan Feldman

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