The Blackness was excellent at ‘A Seat at the Table,’ theGrio’s D.C. post-White House Correspondents’ Dinner after-party 

OPINION: If you know like I know, you’ll try to get on this guest list next year.

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If you are up on anything politically related, then you know the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner happened on Saturday night in Washington, D.C. And if you read theGrio, then you know (courtesy of Matthew Allen) that theGrio hosted “A Seat at the Table,” an after-party to amplify Black media and celebrate one of the greatest to ever do it—reporter, author and theGrio’s White House Correspondent, April Ryan and her career and legacy covering Washington.  And if you’re Black and have social media then you know how litty the event was, courtesy of Instagram and Twitter. Whatever adjectives the youth use today (I really don’t know how many words I’m behind at this point), it was all of those things and more. 

If you were lucky enough to get an invite, get confirmed AND pass the COVID screening, then you definitely descended upon the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture—or more colloquially, the Blacksonian—for a night of drinks, dancing and mingling, courtesy of theGrio’s owner, Byron Allen. And celebrate we did. 

Chris Tucker, Vivica A. Fox, April Ryan, Geraldine Moriba and Byron Allen theGrio.com
(from left) Chris Tucker, Vivica A. Fox, April Ryan, Geraldine Moriba (Allen Media SVP of News, Entertainment & Empowerment) and Byron Allen
Photo: Purple PPL Media

Now, I spent a solid portion of my evening working the room holding a very appropriate cup of brown liquor—the brown will never let you down—but one thing you cannot deny is the beautiful Blackness all around—and the high entertainment value that Blackness brings. You’d like some examples, wouldn’t you? You’re in luck; I have some. 

For starters, let me just say this outright: Ronnie DeVoe of New Edition and BBD, fame, might be one of the absolute nicest celebrities I’ve ever encountered in life. And I’ve encountered a lot. If you wanted to holler at him, he was more than willing and able to give you a moment, which was really nice. I vividly remember telling him that I thought he held New Edition together, and thank you for that. He dapped me up like we were friends. And then I saw something that I almost wish I’d had the opportunity to ask about: the DJ (Brian Henry) dropped BBD’s “Poison,” and I saw Ronnie DeVoe and Chris Tucker break out the dance moves, impromptu, in the middle of the dance floor. Mind blown. I saw Vivica A. Fox from afar and didn’t get the chance to tell her that I think I own the entire—and I’m not joking—Vivica A. Fox cinematic library. I’ll tell her next time. 

D-Nice, the undisputed Most Valuable Player of the entire COVID-pandemic (I genuinely think he’s going to end up in history books for Club Quarantine; we might need to talk to Michael Harriot about adding him into his upcoming book, BlackAF History if he’s not already in there) was in the building being effervescent as usual and spinning for the queen, Mary J. Blige, who couldn’t disappoint if she wanted to. Seriously, what a gift to be that close to Mary J. Blige, who sang classics AND gave us some of the legendary dance moves. My life is better, I assure you, from simply being present. I just realized that was a pun. It wasn’t intended.

I saw Joy-Ann Reid and Abby Phillip. And Eva McKend, who I’m pretty sure was judging my inability to stick the perfect landing on my photo booth picture. She was right though; I was bad at the photo booth on Saturday night; revenge will be mine. Attorney Ben Crump was there along with Ed Gordon and Yamiche Alcindor and the homie Nikole Hannah-Jones, as well as Symone Sanders and April Reign, who called me out for thinking she didn’t remember me; I was wrong. That was funny, actually. And listen, those are just folks I either ran into or scanned from across the room…from the bar, which was fully stocked; no rivers ran dry on Saturday night. Listen, there were a tremendous number of folks in Black media, culture and politics there that night; check out the slideshow. Shoot, once I saw all the pictures after the fact I was like, “Wait, they were there TOO????” All of our cups ranneth over with pride, but just know that next year, and assuming we can let more people in the building, this party will be THE party.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a proper shoutout to the amazing team of folks both with bylines and behind the scenes who were out in full force. Shouts out to our leader, Byron Allen, for creating the reason for the season and our SVP, Geraldine Moriba, who works a room like none other. Major big ups to VP of Digital Content Natasha Alford, with whom I shared a fun full circle moment since our very first convos were after shots with Oprah and about theGrio back in 2018; now I’m working with her here. To all the homies Matthew Allen, Touré, Michael Harriot, Gerren Keith Gaynor (got to get that middle name in there!) and Jason Johnson. To the folks I finally got a chance to meet, like Gina Strachan, Melinda Cooke and Jocelyn Langevine. And, of course, the incomparable April Ryan, the actual reason for the season on Saturday night.

And I know I’m missing some folks at this moment, and I apologize with my whole soul; blame the mind, not the heart. I owe you all shots. 

Listen, “A Seat at the Table” was a blast. Especially after (personally) not really doing major events in over two years, just to be in a room with so many people who I know and respect who are shaping and influencing not only Black culture but American culture writ large, was special. The vibes were good, and the spirit was right. TheGrio is a space whose goal is to tell Black stories and amplify Black culture, and that message was loud and clear at “A Seat at the Table.” Next year, you gon’ need to secure your place in line in advance because it can only get better from here, and I, for one, am proud to be in that number. 

Chris Tucker

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(from left) Byron Allen, Touré, Gerren Keith Gaynor, Michael Harriot, Natasha Alford and Panama Jackson

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Mary J. Blige and DJ D-Nice

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April Ryan

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From left: Pete Buttigieg, Susan Rice, April Ryan and Byron Allen

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Chris Tucker and Gayle King

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Vivica A. Fox and Byron Allen

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Nikole Hannah-Jones and Byron Allen

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(from left) Chris Tucker, Vivica A. Fox, April Ryan, Geraldine Moriba and Byron Allen

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(from left) Karen Boykin-Townes, Benjamin Crump and Mary J. Blige

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(From left) April Ryan, Ana Navarro and Jim Acosta

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Ilhan Omar and Tim Mynett

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(from left) Jennifer Lucas, Chloe Allen, and Byron Allen

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April Ryan (center) and daughters Ryan and Grace

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Melba Wilson

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Sai Sankoh

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Sunny Hostin and Byron Allen

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Valeisha Butterfield Jones and Harvey Mason jr.

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Gizelle Bryant

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Robyn Dixon

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Charisse Jackson Jordan

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DJ D-Nice

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Mary J. Blige

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Ronnie DeVoe (left), and Byron Allen

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ABC News Correspondent Rachel Scott and Capitol Officer Harry Dunn

theGrio

Rep. Bobby Lee Rush (D-IL), left and Byron Allen

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Michael Harriot

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(from left) Natasha Alford, Ashli Ferguson and Jayla Whitfield-Anderson

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Jamila Robinson

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Panama Jackson and Ashli Ferguson

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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott

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Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) (right), and wife Melissa Oppenheimer

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Mary J. Blige

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Touré (left) and Byron Allen

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Nikole Hannah-Jones

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DJ Brian Henry

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Michael Mitchell

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Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)

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Harvey Mason jr. (left) and Byron Allen

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Tym Wallace

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Jocelyn Langevine

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Jayla Whitfield-Anderson

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Ashli Ferguson

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Melba Wilson, Byron Allen and Sai Sankoh

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Chris Tucker

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Panama Jackson theGrio.com
Panama Jackson (Credit: D2D Focus)

Panama Jackson is a columnist at theGrio. He writes very Black things and drinks very brown liquors, and is pretty fly for a light guy. His biggest accomplishment to date coincides with his Blackest accomplishment to date in that he received a phone call from Oprah Winfrey after she read one of his pieces (biggest) but he didn’t answer the phone because the caller ID said “Unknown” (Blackest).

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