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'Peace Ball' Takes Different Approach To Inauguration Festivities


Inauguration weekend in Washington also means parties and balls around the city to celebrate the new president. There will be alternative events, too. The Peace Ball is one of them. It'll be held at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture on Thursday. Notable guests include actors and writers, like Angela Davis, Ashley Judd, Danny Glover and Alice Walker.

Andy Shallal is organizer of the Peace Ball. He's a local community activist and entrepreneur. He owns Washington's iconic Busboys and Poets restaurant chain. He came to our studios in D.C. to tell us more about the Peace Ball.


ANDY SHALLAL: Thank you so much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So tell me a little bit about the Peace Ball. What's the idea behind this?

SHALLAL: The Peace Ball is a gathering of artists and activists and progressives to sort of take a moment and pause and assess all the successes we've had for the past few years - successes around the environment, around marriage equality, around women's rights. Sometimes in very difficult times, we forget to stop and celebrate and take that pause.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So you've organized this Peace Ball twice before, during President Obama's two inaugurations. What's different about this one in your view?

SHALLAL: Well, you know, I remember the election of 2008. And when that election was announced that President Obama won, there was this jubilation. The next morning, I woke up and I said - we can't let this moment go. We have to extend it. Maybe we can throw a ball. I'd never been to a ball, never done a ball. You know, I don't go to balls. So I thought, let's throw one, you know. And lo and behold, we were able to secure a space, and we sold out. One thousand six hundred people showed up and had a fabulous time.

So this time, of course, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture - such an iconic place and really speaks to what America is about - it's a country of hope and resilience like no other. And we thought it'd be an ideal space to have an event like that that speaks to those values that make us all so American.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is this is a protest, though? Is this a space for people in opposition to the incoming administration?

SHALLAL: It's really not a protest, honestly. I mean, I know we've been asked that. This is more of a celebration, a chance for people to come together and rally around some of the great successes we've had.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I was reading in The Washington Post. They asked, you know, won't some progressive party-goers feel like crying into their punch instead of shimmying to Solange Knowles?

SHALLAL: I have no patience for sadness. I mean, this is not the time to cry into your punch (laughter). This is the time to just, you know, really kind of lift yourself up and brush yourself off and move forward. You know, democracy is not a spectator sport. It is something that has to be fought for all the time. And the minute we start blinking and falling asleep at the wheel, things start to slip back. We don't want to go backwards.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some people listening to this might hear your words and wonder if you're Peace Ball is a nostalgia ball...

SHALLAL: (Laughter).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...If it really is looking back to, you know, a presidency that you obviously embraced.

SHALLAL: Well, I have to say that it's really far more than that. I think it's a prep rally to move forward. It's a way for people to say, I am not alone. I'm with 3,000 people who feel like there's a better world out there, who believe that change has to happen by us coming together toward a common goal - not a common goal to say I'm against somebody but a common goal to say we are here for peace and justice. And we are the change that we hope to see in the world.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Andy Shallal, organizer of this Thursday's Peace Ball in Washington, D.C., thank you so very much for being with us.

SHALLAL: It's my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOLANGE SONG, "ODE TO MARVIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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