DC’s elite on Obama’s inauguration: ‘We love having the first family here’

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama paint a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary School.
Photograph by Chris Dilts for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013.

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama paint a bookshelf at Burrville Elementary School. Photograph by Chris Dilts for the Presidential Inaugural Committee 2013.

The ball scene is one of the most memorable aspects of any inauguration weekend. With President Obama retaking the White House in 2013, black organizations of every type are arranging awesome evenings to celebrate his historic feat. From social organizations like Jack and Jill to politicos in the Congressional Black Caucus, African-Americans representing almost every social strata are putting on parties that impress — and attract the nation’s black elite.

The Root’s held its second inaugural ball last night at the Museum of American History. Underwritten by large corporate sponsors such as Marriott, it attracted marquee names including Angela Bassett and Chris Tucker.

What made the celebration exciting was not just the stars buzzing about, such as MSNBC host Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry. It was watching African-American society ladies and gents bump and grind to go-go music and the latest in rap while wearing fine gowns, bright bow ties, and fabulous cummerbunds.

“This is something you are not going to see at any other inaugural ball,” African-American technology expert and Princeton professor Omar Wasow noted about the raucous party brought by the black intelligentsia and glitterati.

And the party is just beginning. A notable time of course due to the swearing-in of President Obama, this weekend marks an occasion for D.C.’s African-American upper echelons to party in particularly high style.

Lauded black party planner Andre Wells will helm eight extravaganzas this weekend alone. Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET — also a doyenne of this exclusive world — attended six events last night herself. Yet, as much as she represents the epitome of D.C.’s black VIP set, she is also a woman of the people, much like first lady Michelle Obama.

“This is very important to our audience, and we are going to be there for them,” Lee told theGrio in a phone interview about covering the 2013 inaugural.

“I’m very excited about the second inauguration, the fact that he won reelection, the fact that he’s our first African-American president,” Lee continued. “Of course, we at BET feel we had a big part in helping him get reelected, so we are going to have an inaugural ball again on Monday. We did it for the first time four years ago. Great people are going to be there — Bell Biv Devoe, Dougie Fresh, MC Lyte. We are going to celebrate his reelection and then of course from the BET News perspective, we have great on air and online coverage. It going to chronicle the significance of this day of celebration, reflection and inspiration for our audience.”

How will she prepare for all the parties, which include another six tonight, and a whopping seven tomorrow, including the two official balls?

“I think it’s really resting and taking vitamins,” Lee said laughing. “Right now, I’m just trying to get my energy level up.”

Style and beauty expert Paul Wharton stressed to theGrio that, for his clients, preparedness for this weekend’s whirlwind was initiated from the inside out well before making party plans.

“The presidential inauguration has always been a special time to celebrate democracy and new beginnings in our country. It’s been especially exciting for me since Barack Obama has been president,” he said. “I started getting calls on the morning of November 7, 2012 as soon as people knew Obama was going to be serving a second term. Politically active women everywhere wanted to plan the look that would make them stand out at the inauguration festivities.”