Music's Counter-Programming Plan for Inauguration Day in DC

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The United States Capitol photographed on Oct. 31, 2016 in Washington D.C.

While the official inauguration celebrations are still struggling to attract support from the entertainment community -- so far, America’s Got Talent’s Jackie Evancho and country stars Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy are the only musicians onboard -- there are plenty of non-partisan and alternative celebrations brewing in the nation’s capital, attracting stars who are committed to furthering social change and protesting many of the ideas espoused by President-elect Donald Trump.

Here are some counter-programming options:

The Peace Ball:

Led by local activist, restaurateur and arts supporter Andy Shallal, The Peace Ball promises to be a bright star during a particularly emotional moment of political division in D.C. Now in its third incarnation, the event will be held at the newly opened National Museum of African American History & Culture -- a Smithsonian institution so popular that visitors need to obtain timed entry passes, which are consistently snapped up months in advance -- and will feature headline performances from soulful chanteuses Solange and Esperanza Spalding. “We purposely chose socially conscious performers. Solange and Esperanza have been at the forefront of speaking out about issues of race and of social justice,” says Shallal. 

Also on the roster: Hollywood notables Ashley Judd, Danny Glover, Cheryl Strayed, Alice Walker and Eve Ensler, as well as celebrity chef Jose Andres, who famously pulled out of a plan to open one of his restaurants in D.C.’s new Trump Hotel after the president-elect made disparaging comments about Mexicans. Tickets to the now-sold-out event started at $200 for regular folks and $150 for students, making it one of the more affordable celebrations in town. “We want people to walk away feeling optimistic and uplifted. Sometimes there are obstacles in the way of social progress, but we want to make sure people don’t get discouraged. We don’t want to slide back.”

 

The Creative Coalition:

As it has for every inauguration since 2001, The Creative Coalition will hold a nonpartisan ball on Jan. 20 at the Harman Center for the Arts. The event, which will feature a headline performance by Blues Traveler, is hosted by a bipartisan congressional committee as well as big- and small-screen celebs, including Tim Daly, John Leguizamo, Christina Hendricks, Alia Shawkat, Matthew Modine and Cheryl Hines. “This ball is about everything that’s great about the arts in America,” says CEO Robin Bronk. “We were seeking an iconic American band to represent that, and there’s no one better to do that than Blues Traveler.” 

Highlighting the intersection of the arts and politics, Bronk points out that the arts is our country’s second leading export (agriculture is the first): “For every dollar we spend on the arts in our communities, we see a $7 return on our investment. It’s important that we are present as a new administration takes office and make sure that the arts thrive and survive in this country. It’s not just a party -- it’s a party with a purpose.” A handful of tax-deductible tickets, which start at $3,000, or $5,000 a pair, are still available.

Planned Parenthood:

In the hope of delivering the message to the incoming administration that women’s health and reproductive rights continue to be of paramount importance, Planned Parenthood is co-presenting Show Up!, a free concert with performances by The National and rap artist and activist (and friend of the Obamas) Common at D.C.’s legendary 9:30 Club on Jan. 19. It’s being billed as “more than a concert -- it’s a call to action for supporters of reproductive freedom to take action wherever they are.” 

Among those supporters? Matt Berninger, lead singer of The National. “Women should be able to make their own decisions about their bodies and health. This is a basic human right, and we’re at the very beginning of a long and tough battle to defend these basic rights. A concert in DC, inspiring people to take action, seems like a pretty good way to kick it off," said Berninger in a press release. Tickets are free but are only available through “partnering organizations” -- which, at this point, have all apparently been distributed.

All in Service D.C.

For those who want to cast a vote with their dollar, local fundraiser All in Service D.C. is seizing the opportunity to “celebrate D.C.’s diversity by giving back to local organizations” that represent causes that might otherwise be overlooked by the incoming administration. The fundraiser has galvanized more than 50 top-tier dining and drinking establishments across the city to donate a portion of their proceeds from inauguration weekend to charities that support everything from nutrition and health care for those in need, to women recovering from homelessness, to caring for our environment -- thus salving the wounds of the more than 92 percent of D.C. residents who voted against Trump and now have to host an event that may feel more like an invasion than a celebration. 

Shallal, who has his finger on the pulse of social change in DC, sums up the current mood of “hope and resistance”: “I think the message is very clear that there are a lot of people out there who feel that this is not the time to turn back the clock on progress. This is the time to continue to improve the situation for people who may not have the same opportunities as others. Whether it’s through the Peace Ball, the Women’s March, or any of the other events that are taking place throughout the city, what we’re saying is that this is not about a moment or a politician; this is about a systemic change.”

To those who might feel like burying their heads in their pillows during the upcoming White House transition, Shallal suggests that their voices are essential perhaps now more than ever. “Politicians are only as effective as the people who uplift them,” he says. “Leadership doesn’t happen at the top; it happens from the bottom. We want to be able to create the surge from below so that any politician who’s thinking about rolling back a progressive agenda will think twice about it.” 

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