There were so many balls competing for celebrity guests during Inauguration, but a bevy of stars chose to attend the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball benefiting Russell Simmons’s Hip-Hop Summit Action Network the night before President Barack Obama’s swearing in.
The first stars to hit the red carpet at the Harmon Arts Center in D.C. were honorees T.I. and Young Jeezy. LL Cool J, MC Lyte and Bow Wow were also honored for their role in encouraging the largest young voter turnout in American history.
It was Bow Wow’s first time voting and not only did he receive recognition from HASN, he also got to meet the first lady hours before he came to the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball.
“This is a salute to people in hip-hop who did it not because they were paid to but because it was really something in their heart,” said HSAN Executive Director Valiesha Butterfield. She said now that the long campaign season is over the non-partisan, nonprofit will put more effort into their financial literacy and economic development and preventing home foreclosures.
The stars were talkative on the red carpet and could barely be pulled away by their publicists as they answered questions about the significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Young Jeezy, who makes his acting debut in Ice Cube’s new film Janky Promoters in March, said this election is about his son and the future of the United States. “I never was involved in any elections or any things like that, so just for my son to see my full fledged involved from A to Z, I think that’s the best part.”
T.I. said he felt privileged to be at the event and that Obama’s presidency has given him more hope. “Not necessarily for myself as much as for my children. It has given me the energy to say ‘you can do anything in the world you want to do. It’s been done before and there’s nothing that anyone has done before that you can’t do.’”
Black Republican Don King gave journos on the red carpet a history lesson about the Constitution. He said Obama’s presidency is a giant step but we still need to eradicate the three-fifths compromise. “The three fifths compromise is something that Roger Sherman would not let not this country be put together unless they would make black people 3/5 human beings. Now, the argument would be the 13, 14th and the 15th Amendments changed all that, but it didn’t.”
Don King went on to explain what the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments do. When asked if he was considering registering as a Democrat, since he strongly supported President Obama, he responded, “I am a Republicat!” When the laughter subsided he added, “I am for whoever is for America.”
Busta Rhymes performed at the gala. He gave a passionate response when asked how Barack Obama’s election has affected him. “We’re finally able to look at a mirror image of who we are and say, this is greatness in the flesh.” Busta said he doesn’t use the word “try” anymore, he’s replaced it with strive.
Other famous folks who walked the carpet included Judge Mathis, Trey Songz, Larenz Tate and Teyana Taylor. Q from Day26 and Dawn Richard from Danity Kane came through holding hands, smiling and making jokes.
When asked what was up with Danity Kane Dawn replied, “I’m still trying to figure out what’s happening with Danity Kane. If anyone knows they can call me at this number—just joking.” Dawn said she’s ready to work when her girls are ready to return to the studio.
MC Lyte took her time strolling the red carpet answering every question thrown at her. Lyte said the Obama candidacy has bridged the gap between generations. She said that this election season made it possible for artists to speak responsibly and inspire people without sounding uncool.
“Partying is cool, that’s the easy way for an MC to do the craft,” Lyte said. “But when you can move people and inspire them to think broadly and change their own circumstances, then you’re really doing something. I look forward to that change.”
– Sabrina M. Parker