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Busboys and Poets’ ‘Peace Ball’ Gives Voices of Hope and Resistance

By Jaylin Paschal and Chante Russell, Staff Writers
Posted 3:00 PM EST, Fri., Jan. 27, 2017

On Jan. 19, a diverse group of activists and artists came together at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture for popular restaurant chain Busboys and Poets’ third annual 2017 Peace Ball: Voices of Hope and Resistance. The event intended to celebrate social justice achievements over the past four years and inspire others to continue fighting for a better, more loving world.

The night included exclusive access to the museum, food, dancing and was hosted by author Sonya Renee Taylor. The crowd enjoyed the night by partying and chanting affirmations of love and determination. The main events consisted of inspirational speeches from esteemed journalists and activists, as well as live, musical performances. Among the speakers were Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.), actor and political activist Danny Glover, author Naomi Klein, president and founder of the Children’s Defense Fund Marian Wright Edelman, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance Ai-jen Poo, broadcast journalist and co-host of Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, writer and chef provocateur Eddie Huang and poet Sonia Sanchez.

“You are the ones that inspire me everyday, you are the ones that make me keep going,” said Andy Shallal, founder of Busboys and Poets as he shared words of encouragement to the audience. “You are the dreamers and the schemers… we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Shallal expressed that the Peace Ball was an event to take a pause and assess all the great success America has had in the past few years.

“In these very difficult times we tend to get very depressed and withdrawn,” Shallal told The Hilltop. “Rather than getting depressed and withdrawn, we should highlight the positive and the great things.”

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“Demand more. Demand more of your leaders. Demand more of the people that are supposed to inspire you,” he said.

During the event, Poet Alice Walker also called in to share her “5 Principles for Getting Through the Trump Years.” Her first principle was “turn up the kindness volume.” Her second principle said to, “maintain the closest possible connection with nature.” The third stated that we must, “maintain respect for all three of the oldest ancestors” whom she listed as Native Americans, Africans and Europeans. The fourth was “move your body as much as you can; hard times require furious dancing.” Walker’s final principle was to “remember that this, too, shall pass.”

The musical performances following the speeches were as empowering as the words spoken. Renowned jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding performed earlier in the night and the combination of her music and live dancers left the crowd in awe. As the night neared its end, legendary activist Angela Davis took to the stage for a brief speech, and to introduce Solange as “one who will help us produce the anthems of the resistance.”

“The next 1460 days [of Trump’s presidency] constitute a lasting tide of resistance. In our resistance we need art, we need music, we need poetry,” Davis said.

The calm, hypnotizing vibe that you would expect from a Solange performance took over the room. She, as well as her band and dancers, wore all white as colorful lighting manipulated the visuals on stage. After performing favorites from her “A Seat at the Table” album, including “Rise”, “Weary”, “Cranes in the Sky”, “Mad” and “Don’t Touch My Hair”, Solange humbly thanked everyone in the audience for the honor of performing at the Peace Ball.

Having been a night of love, empowerment and art, The 2017 Peace Ball offered to its guests the idea that the presidency of Donald J. Trump would not be the end of the world, but rather, the beginning of a new battle in a long war.

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