There Was a Star-Studded Inauguration Ball Last Night Without a Trump in Sight
The “alternative” ball took place at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Sen. Cory Booker called it a “party with a purpose.” Activist Angela Davis called it a “people’s inauguration” and a “space of bold creativity.”
Last night’s Peace Ball was anything but a typical inaugural event: it was a bold articulation of a progressive vision of the United States in 2017 and beyond.
Rising above the divisiveness of the 2016 election cycle, the Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance — which took place Thursday night at the recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., — stressed taking positive action in the face of social discord.
The event was organized by Andy Shallal, the owner of Busboys and Poets — a bookstore, restaurant, and meeting space with three locations in the Washington D.C. area. Notable guests ranged from activists Angela Davis, Amy Goodman, and Melissa Harris-Perry to a star-studded musical lineup that included performances from R&B singer Solange and bassist Esperanza Spalding.
From those who walked the red carpet, including actors Danny Glover, Ellen Page, and Ashley Judd, to those who milled about the spacious ground floor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the event showcased a diverse cross-section of Americans dancing and cheering in harmony on the eve of President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration.
Shallal was keen to highlight that the Peace Ball was not a repudiation of Trump, but rather a proactive vision of peace.
Shallal, and others who spoke at the event, also stressed the importance of framing one’s own life and narrative within a broader global vision.
“A global citizen is a person who doesn’t just look at their certain condition and their place, but they also look at the world and they understand the importance of intersectionality,” Shallal told Global Citizen. They understand “that we are all connected as human beings, that it’s not about a zero-sum game, but it’s about all of us being in the game together.”
Booker also chose to highlight the commonalities that bring us together, rather than the differences that drive people apart.
“They call it the Declaration of Independence,” Booker said. “But if you read the document and go to the Jefferson Memorial, you will see one of the greatest declarations of interdependence that was ever put forth.”
Booker’s fiery 5-minute speech sent a wave of energy through an already-bustling crowd of several thousand people.
“Every time a person stands up for a righteous cause, every time a person stands up for a cause of justice, they send out ripples of hope that collectively become a mighty stream, that become a mighty wave, that become a tsunami of force,” he said.
The event drew people from across the United States.
"It’s not about a zero-sum game, but it’s about all of us being in the game together." - Andy Shallal
John Meade, a location scout manager and film producer who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, told Global Citizen that he had come for not only the Peace Ball, but also the women’s march and the protests taking place in and around Washington D.C.
Promoting peace in the world, Meade told Global Citizen, begins with the self.
“To the degree where you can’t love yourself, then you can’t love the world,” he said. “If you shift your relationship with yourself, the relationship with the world is immediately transformed and you can relate to each person.”
Mother Allison and her two daughters Emma and Caitlin McColl — who came to D.C. from San Diego, California — said that the Nov. 9 election inspired them to take political action for the first time in their lives.
“The current political environment,” Caitlin McColl said, “it’s kind of driven us to feel like we need to be more involved in the workings of our country, to demonstrate that we want to be involved.”
Performances from Esperanza Spalding, who took the stage with the Howard University Afro Blue vocal jazz ensemble, and Solange, whose new album “A Seat at the Table” has generated a healthy amount of buzz in the early stages of awards season, helped to infuse energy to the event’s attendees.
"Certainly in our resistance, we need art, we need music, we need poetry." - Angela Davis
“Certainly in our resistance, we need art, we need music, we need poetry,” Angela Davis told the crowd before inviting Solange to the stage. “Now you are about to witness a performance by one who will help us produce the anthems of our resistance.”
Solange wore an all-white jumpsuit — possibly an homage to Hillary Clinton and the suffragette movement — and performed several songs from “A Seat at the Table,” with the poise and grace of a rising star. Bathed in a red-glow, her crooning anthems simultaneously pacified and electrified a crowd that filled the entire floor of the museum.
When her set ended, and the lights came on, the dancing didn’t stop until the early hours of the morning, and security had to gently nudge the remaining dancers from the floor around 1 a.m.
It was an enduring final dance party, one without trepidation or fear, ushering out the Obama year’s the way they came in — vibrant, hopeful, but with a hint of rebellion against the status quo.