I have gotten around to uploading some more video from the past couple of days in DC for the presidential inauguration festivities. One of the coolest events I attended was a multi-arts celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at the National Cathedral called "Continuing the Dream." About 1,000 people gathered for a series of spirited performances to honor Dr. King, including the Urban Nation Hip Hop Choir shown in the video above.
I was lucky enough to catch this choir rehearsing prior to the event in the catacombs of the Cathedral, within my favorite space called St. Joseph's Chapel. Unlike the cavernous main sanctuary that distorts and echoes the amplified sound, St. Joseph's Chapel is relatively small, low ceilinged and round in shape. So music performed in there envelops you and fills the space. Listening to the choir practice in there was a beautiful way to start the day.
More videos and pics after the jump…
Several local spoken word artists took to the stage at the beginning of the program, which the audience listened to intently. I had forgotten how awesome the poetry and spoken word scene in DC was, a bright spot in an otherwise bland alternative arts landscape in the Beltway.
Afterwards, violinist Daniel Davis performed an amazing hip-hop violin piece as a tribute to Dr. King that brought everyone to their feet. I was blown away by how chill and in the zone Daniel was, even as people were shouting and clapping as he walked among the audience. It was as if he were in his own inner world and we were being allowed to peer into it.
Interspersed throughout the program were "letters to Obama" that were read out by young people. It was inspiring hearing these well-considered requests to Obama read out by the authors. Blank sheets of paper were passed out for everyone else to write their own letter to Obama, which was a cool way of involving the crowd.
The event concluded with an African drum circle. Several of us crowded up to the stage to clap and cheer, one woman even got inspired to do a spirited African dance.
The event was a good reminder to me that there is a vital and rich DC community that has very little to do with the vast federal government apparatus. Urban, diverse, with a definite Southern flavor, the local DC community was a very visible and welcome presence this week.