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Harlem celebrates Obama's historic moment

NEW YORK, Jan 20 (Reuters) - New York’s historic black neighborhood of Harlem brimmed with joy on Tuesday as Barack Obama took office as America’s first black president.

Elated crowds filled theaters and churches and jammed sidewalks to watch the inaugural festivities televised from Washington, bursting into cheers each time the new president appeared on the screen.

In the streets, car horns blared in celebration.

“I wouldn’t miss this for nothing in the world,” said Erika Greene, a security guard who watched the ceremony on a large outdoor television screen set up on 125th Street, one of the neighborhood’s main thoroughfares.

Harlem, in uptown Manhattan, has long been the heart of the city’s black culture and home to generations of black artists, writers, politicians and activists.

“We’ve bled, we’ve fought, we’ve done it,” Greene said. “This is our time.”

Tears streamed down Sabrina Grandison’s face as she watched Obama take the oath of office on the large outdoor television screen.

“I’m overwhelmed,” she said. “This is such a joyous occasion.”

Vendors hawked every bit of memorabilia imaginable, from lightswitch plates decorated with Obama’s picture to homemade bean pies, dubbed “Obama pies” for the day.

More than a thousand people filled the historic Apollo theater, where the inauguration was shown on a large screen. A chorus of loud “boos” erupted at the sight of outgoing Vice President Dick Cheney.

Outside, the chilly winter temperatures did little to spoil the party atmosphere.

“I could have watched it at home,” said Sherry Watson, an education consultant from New York’s Bronx borough, who watched the ceremony outdoors. “But it’s such a momentous occasion that I wanted to be with a lot of people, to be in the mix.”

The historic nature of the occasion brought Janet Bingham, a mortgage specialist from the Bronx, out to brave the cold.

“People helped all along the way, civil rights workers, runaway slaves, people who rebelled,” she said. “Everyone past and present played their part to help a day like this come to fruition.

“It’s a new day,” she said.

Editing by Cynthia Osterman