Photo Blog: Out for Equality Ball in Washington, D.C.
Almost lost admidst the hoopla and excitement of the inauguration of Barack Obama was the LGBT community's own celebration: the Out for Equality Ball. You wouldn't know it from the coverage in the so-called "mainstream" press, but more than 1,000 people jammed into the Mayflower Hotel in downtown DC to honor the inauguration of Barack Obama and celebrate our community.
It was a great event - packed with people, filled with awesome entertainment and free of any bad logistical nightmares (even the coat check process was quick). The Ball was sponsored by HRC, the Victory Fund, GLAAD, SLDN, NGLCC and nearly 20 other LGBT organizations from around the country. Despite the seeming press blackout, it provided great visibility for our community within our community and served as a great outlet for celebrants - even those (like me) not pleased at the inclusion of Rick Warren in the inaugural ceremony.
From Bishop Gene Robinson to singer Melissa Etheridge, the message that WE have work to do was clear. Yes, we need to expect support from President Obama, but we must also work for it. This kind of inspiration mixed with common sense was in keeping with the tone of the day served to help put the weekend's events in perspective.
My partner Mark and I attended the ball and took the pictures below. If you weren't there (or even if you were), we hope you enjoy them.
Saxophonist Dave Koz opened the show with several inspiring American-themed jazz versions of American classics. I'm a huge Dave Koz fan and it was great to see an openly gay artist performing at an LGBT event with such obvious pride and joy. Did I mention how handsome he is? Even more so in person than in photographs.
Pop legend Cyndi Lauper graciously agreed to join Rufus Wainwright during part of his set for a lovely duet. Did I mention that both looked great (and Cyndi wore a sparkly Obama t-shirt under her coat)?! I'm a fan of both of these wonderful singers and it was so great to see them together.
Legend Thelma Houston brought the house down (and silenced some of the talking in the crowd) with an energetic, heartfelt performance of Motown hits and her own "Don't Leave Me This Way.' I sang along, as did most of the crowd. It was an amazing performance, made even more incredible when the singer revealed that she is 65 years old. Talk about energy, dedication to her craft and talent - Miss Houston, you rock!
Bishop Gene Robinson, although seemingly silenced in Sunday's pre-inaugural concert, was heard loud and clear at last night's ball. His introduction was met with thunderous applause. He spoke movingly about the task ahead and about his own thoughts of the weekend and the involvement of the LGBT community in the new administration. He also revealed that after Sunday's events, he was invited to sit on the podium during the swearing in yesterday and that he spoke with Rick Warren before that event. The picture at right is of the performance stage with the heads of the sponsoring organizations applauding Robinson after his introduction.
Cyndi Lauper might as well have been in a stadium performing a full concert: she poured her heart and soul into a performance that had the entire room singing along, laughing and shouting for joy. At right, Cyndi shares the stage with Thelma Houston on a rousing version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" that also included Rufus Wainwright, Catie Curtis and Cyndi's band (including Rich Morel) and backup singers. Throughout her performance, Cyndi demonstrated why our community loves her so much - because she loves us right back.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick was a suprise guest. He brought his wife and daughter and spoke passionately about the importance of LGBT rights for our family and for his (his daughter is a lesbian). It was inspiring and exciting, particularly after HRC chief Joe Solmonese introduced Patrick by reminding the crowd that Massachusetts is one of only two states in the U.S. that grants the right to equal marriage to all of its citizens. Patrick gave a great speech and was rewarded with a huge, happy response.
Singer and Rock goddess Melissa Etheridge was the fitting show closer. After an introduction by Dave Koz, Melissa sang several hits ("Bring Me Some Water" "I'm The Only One") and talked to the crowd about what the day meant to her and her family. She also revealed that she had been invited to sit on the podium for the swearing-in (after a call from Sen. Feinstein's office) and talked movingly of the experience of seeing the event from that perspective. In closing, she reminded the crowd (many of whom sang along as they had been for most of the night) that she came out sixteen years ago at the Triangle Ball in DC. Talk about full circle - and what a performer!
And of course, we had to have one celebrity photo opp. Mark and I decided to take a chance and ask Dave Koz (who was hanging out in the crowd with friends all night) to take a photo with us. As if being a supremely talented musician weren't enough, Dave is also a really nice guy. In addition to asking a friend to take a photo, he chatted with us for a while and told us about his work with the Victory Fund and other LGBT groups. Talking with him made we want to go out and buy one or two of the Dave Koz albums I don't already have!
I don't intend to minimize the gravity of the current environment or the amount of work we as a community have to do, but it was gratifying and motivating to stop for a moment and just enjoy the power, creativity and determination of our community and our allies. Kudos to us - all of us.
(Images courtesy of Ben Finzel)