The epicenter of Lansings civil rights history is literally an intersection. Its at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Vincent Court on the south side. The literal part is that the boulevards namesake intersects here with the boyhood home of Malcolm X.

Xs home is long gone, however, and a faded state historical marker shrouded by a billboard advertising the availability of a set of neat townhouses just off Vincent is the only way you would know it was once there.

Its kind odd that X and King meet here on this corner in Lansing. Would a young Malcolm Little ever dream that the bed where he slept would (had his house not been torn down) look out onto a street named after another assassinated civil rights leader? And what would both men think if they were standing together on that corner in 2009 contemplating that in just a few days America would have its first black president?

It would be nice to imagine them standing there together, smiling about Barack Obama, but probably knowing in the backs of their minds that the work is not done.

F e l i x Mor r i s — whose townhouse looks out onto the X historical marker — was loading up his car on a recent day, about to run a few errands. He took a minute to contemplate what it means to see the first black president take office.

"I dont think hes only black person thats ever been qualified to be president," said Morris, who, along with his wife, voted for Obama. "America just needed to be warmed up."

For one thing, Morris said, the first black president is going to provide young black males with a role model outside of athletes and musicians. And its going to be different with the economy, too, he said: He wasnt just handed a blank check, like Bush for example, and hell be more equitable with all citizens of America.

"Hes our president now, and everyone has to respect him," Morris said.

Tasha Ross, Morris next-door neighbor, was busy trying to get to work. But she stopped to talk about Obama.

"I think its going to make a lot of change," she said.

"I think its great," Michael Ross, Tashas husband, said as he walked past his wife on his way to his car.

Does she think Obamas election is a move toward greater equality in America?

"I actually do," she said. "We understand him, and he understands the people and what they want; hes for the people."

When asked whether she voted for Obama, she elicited, "Pffffff — yes! McCain? No!"

Nick Guitierrez, Tashas next-door neighbor, was home with his young daughter. He thinks Obama can deliver more economic equality — more health care, less bailouts.

"I just read that after CitiGroup threw a $400,000 party after they got bailout money," Guitierrez said. "We need less inequality in the economy; thats what Id like to see."

In downtown Lansing, Eric Campbell, who owns the Jamaica Palace restaurant, on Washington Square, was reading the Final Call newspaper, which was founded by Elijah Muhammad, the rebuffed former mentor of Malcolm X.

Campbell immigrated to America from Jamaica, working his way up from a job on a cruise ship. Jamaica is a diverse but predominantly black country that has had black prime ministers (and recently, one female black prime minister) for nearly 40 years. But to Campbell, for America to elect its first black president is monumental and uplifting.

"This is the highest position a black man has ever had," Campbell said, his hand brushing over a headline in the Final Call screaming about a rising homicide rate among young black men. "To be president for the first time when its pretty much been a white guy thing that tells something that society is changing."

Campbell believes that for the first time — with the exclusion of Bill Clinton — that America is going to have a president who will consider that his decisions affect the entire country.

"Even though their decisions are affecting everybody, nobody pays attention to that," Campbell said, speaking about past presidents. "Look at after the bailouts — no one does anything for the poor people."

Campbell believes that Obamas top priorities should be the reform of the justice system, which he sees as disproportionately affecting minorities and improving the education system. On top of that, Obama, he says, will be a great role model for young black people.

"Martin Luther King did not achieve the dream, because theres still not an equal playing field," Campbell said. "But the story of Obama is a big deal, because he reached the American dream."

—Neal McNamara