WASHINGTON (AP) — The main attraction, Solange Knowles, didn’t hit the stage until close to midnight, but the 3,000 or so enthusiastic guests packed into the National Museum of African American History and Culture weren’t going anywhere.
It was an energetic crowd at Thursday’s “Peace Ball,” an evening organized by progressive activist Andy Shallal, and part of the so-called “alternative” programming surrounding the inauguration. The evening, which also featured jazz singer Esperanza Spalding and a dance party, was quite different from the official pre-inaugural concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which was heavy on country music.
Guests at the Peace Ball included actors Danny Glover and Fran Drescher. Glover addressed the fact that although the event was described as a nonpartisan celebration of successes in recent years in areas such as health care, climate change and marriage equality, the room was filled with people unhappy with the results of the election.
“We can’t just sit and lick our wounds,” Glover said. “Our work is cut out for us. We have to make some hard choices.”
One guest, Lucinda Ziesing of Camden, Maine, expressed her own alarm over the state of the nation in a particularly colorful way: She wore a gown made of red plastic strips, all emblazoned with the word “DANGER.” On her head was a laurel wreath of black plastic.
Ziesing said she wasn’t at the ball to protest President-elect Donald Trump so much as to advocate for attention to issues of deep concern to her: the environment, women’s health, and civil rights, to name a few.
Organizer Shallal joined many guests in expressing the hope that President Trump would be responsive to all, not just those who voted for him. “I hope he will listen to all Americans — not just one side of America,” he said.
Trump himself, speaking at the conclusion of the Lincoln Memorial concert earlier, pledged to unify the country, saying he aimed to “make America great for all our people, for everybody.”
But he also made sure to repeat the story of his unlikely victory, saying: “I can only tell you this, the polls started going up, up, up, but they didn’t want to give us credit because they forgot about a lot of us. Well, you’re not forgotten anymore.”
Performers at that concert included Sam Moore, who sang “America the Beautiful;” country singers Lee Greenwood and Toby Keith; and the bands 3 Doors Down and The Piano Guys. Broadway singer Jennifer Holliday was not there; she had backed out after an outcry from Trump critics, which she says included death threats. Several other artists were reported to have declined.
Curiously, Trump said that a Lincoln Memorial concert hadn’t been done before. In fact, several presidents have staged concerts there, including Barack Obama for his first inauguration, when the lineup featured Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen, U2, James Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi and many more — plus readings by actors like Denzel Washington, Tom Hanks, and Samuel L. Jackson.