Byron Allen presented theGrio’s 2nd annual Washington, D.C. Gala — and everybody had on their dancing shoes

OPINION: A second gentleman, a governor, and a major walked into a gala in Washington, D.C. — stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: Byron Allen speaks onstage as Byron Allen and theGrio celebrate Gayle King at their Washington D.C. Gala after The White House Correspondents Dinner at National Museum Of African American History & Culture on April 29, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for Byron Allen, Allen Media Group)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

One of the cool things about being part of a media organization that knows how to level up is that on occasion you get an opportunity to hang with all of the cool kids at spiffy events. Such was the case this past weekend at “Byron Allen Presents theGrio Washington D.C. Gala,” where theGrio honored the incomparable Gayle King with its Journalist Icon award. A time was had, fam. A time was had. 

So much so that, randomly, I observed the kind of thing you never really think you’re ever going to see in life. Not because it’s comet-level in its infrequency, but because when you’re at a gala that also serves as a party, you see everybody having fun and then you realize, “Wow, all of these folks jamming are like, ESSENTIAL TO THE CONVERSATIONS!”

For instance, while we were all jamming out to some of Motown’s most famous hits, I looked upon the crowd from my spot in the corner and saw second gentleman Doug Emhoff, Rep. Maxine Waters, Rep. Bobby Rush, Maryland Governor Wes Moore, New York City mayor Eric Adams, and Tennessee State Rep. Justin Pearson all cutting the ruggiest of rugs at the same time, all within, like 10 feet of one another. And that’s just not something you see every day. Shoot, I’m not even sure when that collection of persons (among a litany of other somebodies) would ever congregate naturally. But you know where they did? At theGrio Washington D.C. Gala. That’s where. 

And that speaks to the importance and necessity of events like this. It’s called “A Seat at the Table” because it represents the opportunity to not only be in the room but to honor our legacy and those who help keep it alive, ie. Gayle King, and last year, April Ryan. The chance to gather some of the nation’s most influential people and voices to honor those who ensure those voices have resonance and reach is a unique offering. 

Now I don’t want to overstate and underwhelm, but folks were out here living their best lives, looking their Sunday best with the finest of bar cocktails and finger foods. Let me take a quick moment to speak about these little tiny tacos they were passing out; I literally chased down a server who had them on her tray because I ate one and decided I’d found the food item I’d been missing from my life. Making the “chef’s kiss” motion wouldn’t do those tacos justice, I assure you. And just like last year, that brown liquor drink—the Bourbon Sour—was giving all that needed to be gave. 

I rather enjoy running into a who’s who of folks who make any number of institutions run. While the political and media celebrities are always fun to meet and speak to, it’s the folks behind the scenes who really give me life. Especially when you know them by name or by social media handle but haven’t met them in person — and you realize we’re all regular people — some of us just have huge jobs. That’s a comfortable feeling, especially in a space curated for us, by us.

Knowing that the people who are tasked with ensuring information and its dissemination understand who you are and where you’ve been is the essence of having a seat at the table, and further validates why gathering those folks is so important. It’s one thing to know we’re all out there; it’s something altogether different to see everybody dancing, mingling, and handing out dap that probably doesn’t make its way—publicly—into the hallways of the White House. At least not frequently. 

And since music is our great connector, it makes all of the sense in the world that such a collection of important lawmakers, politicos, staffers, and journos would find those common rhythms that keep the two-steps in sync. When you look around a room while Cheryl Lynn’s “Encore” is playing and you see folks who are probably on-call at that moment taking a beat to mimic the lyrics and throw their hands in the air, it makes me feel like we just might be alright. Shouts out to the DJ, Ty Alexander. 

Yeah, my seat at the table felt warm and comfortable. I think I’ll keep it. 

Cheers to another successful and necessary Washington D.C. Gala celebrating Black journalists and media.

Panama Jackson

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).

Make sure you check out the Dear Culture podcast every Thursday on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, where I’ll be hosting some of the Blackest conversations known to humankind. You might not leave the convo with an afro, but you’ll definitely be looking for your Afro Sheen! Listen to Dear Culture on TheGrio’s app; download it here.