44th Presidential Inauguration Celebration: Part One


Well the program title read “Radio One All Star Celebrity Tribute to Outstanding Morning Show Host Tom Joyner” and it was obvious from the start that the evening would be all about the man who changed perceptions about Barack Obama and engaged hundreds of thousands in the political process. Of course, I’m talking about the medium of black radio and the most outstanding and dynamic educator and entertainer and his knack for reaching and galvanizing the black community. The election of Barack Obama cannot be solely attributed to the dedication of one man “partying with a purpose” but there is certainly no denying that without his input, in between catering to the general black masses from his nationally syndicated radio show, the outcome would have been much closer.

How much closer, you may ask? Well let’s just start with the fact that long before Barack Obama might have become a household name and a presidential hopeful, Tom Joyner registered hundreds of thousands of voters in a community that was most likely favorable to such grandiose notions of a black president. Without any motivational empowerment of the black community it can be said that Obama could have very well lost.  I am certain that I am not the only one who thinks in this way, today. Some of you already know from my earlier posts that I didn’t even succumb to the faint delusion that a black president would be possible in America until it actually happened. (Up until last night, I was still rubbing my eyes and discussing over filet mignon that concept was finally sinking in -more on that later, though.) The third page after the autograph insert on the second page of the program was a letter from the 44th President Elect Barack Obama saying as much in a public thank you letter.

This was a tribute to someone that helped to elect the President of the United States of America. He is a black man from Alabama –and a king maker in the truest sense, in a nation that had nothing but open contempt for him at the start of his career. Sadly, at the start of his shining tribute, I was once again late and in the tented Green Room behind the theatre enjoying lamb shanks and jerk chicken. I was sipping champagne when the announcement was made to take seats in the auditorium so as not to embarrass Radio One’s affiliate television station TV One during the eventual broadcast. I was one of the first to bail after the proclamation was made by millionaire owner Cathy Hughes but it is important to note that there was very many a star that was mesmerized by the elaborate spread provided by Hennessy.

When I took my seat in the wing behind Tom Joyner the evidence seemed a little stronger that “the play was the thing” because Chuck Brown, Eric Benet, Raheem DeVaughn, James Ingram, and Jamie Fox were all great performances. Cathy Hughes wasn’t really the best emcee for the event but it was more of a tribute to Tom coming from her, so none of it was worse for the wear. Conspicuously absent from the tribute were his radio show co-hosts but affiliates from other stations like Russ Parr and Huggy Low-Down paid homage. By the time Dick Gregory got on the stage, I really knew that this was something special. As usual Dick Gregory framed it in the most succinct way, as only a 76-year-old black man could, “thank you, Tom.”

Now on to the foolishness.  There are so many flossy things to talk about but I’m going to limit it to just pictures and random statements.  The event was super tight.  There can be no equivocation on that point.  Tom Joyner and his sons have revolutionized black media to include a social conscious.  I am proud to say that my friend and college roommate helped to raise more money for Historically Black Colleges than the United Negro College Fund.  That’s right, Tom Joyner, Jr. is a force to be reckoned with in black higher education as the CEO of the Tom Joyner Foundation.  Youngest son, Oscar Joyner, is also a friend but he concentrates his efforts as President of the Reach Media, a Radio One affiliate that incorporates radio, television and events.  The boys aren’t playing around, and neither was I at the event billed as the kick-off to start inaugural festivities.  I took pictures and downed as much free alcohol as social circumstances would allow.  My only mission in the night was not to embarrass anyone, so it was just like the good old days when we were in school.

My usual leash, Rudolph, didn’t get there until much later due to the fact that his son Maverick had a basketball game.  I’m sure he would have put a stop to my paparazzi status.  It was not as if I was star struck, but I wanted to take pictures for the historic event.  Plus this is good documentation of me finally becoming a believer in Barack Obama.  Anyway, this is what Rudy would have had to contend with: Does anyone remember the girl from the television show "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air?"  Yeah, well she was there and I took a picture with her.  How about basketball player Alonzo Mourning?  Yeah, well I took pictures of him, too.  It went on and on like this until I finally left the catered Green Room at the behest of a millionaire.  Now after the event, we went to go eat some more and I felt really silly at Old Ebbet Grill.  Tom Joyner and Gerald Lavert treated us to a late night meal and a cocktail as we discussed the night’s proceedings.  Everyone was all smiles but it was starting to become telling to me that I wasn’t the only one marveling at the beauty of it all.  In a few short days there will be a black man as the President of the United States.  The restaurant that were eating our late night snack in would have been off limits to all of us, regardless of star power, in segregated Washington DC 60 years ago.  Anyway, you slice it, it was a much better look for everyone on hand or anyone else that might wonder in 2009.


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