… ok.. let’s see.. where did I leave off?…
oh yes..So after all the security theatrics, we finally made it inside. The staffer assigned to us seemed kinda agitated that of all the night’s A-list performers she’d been assigned to escort some unknown college kids. As we walk through the majestic halls, gawking at pictures and peeking into open doors, the unhappy staffer lady attempted to pass us off to some female military official who smiled brightly and replied happily , ” I can’t leave my post.”
I should pause here and mention that the White House is much larger than I’d expected. Because I’m from Natchez, Mississippi, I’ve seen my fair share of antebellum mansion, with super-sized columns and massive entry ways. But for some reason, the White House stands out in my mind as being HUGE . ( maybe I was just excited.) As you can imagine, the places was VERY CLEAN. Even in a blizzard, there wasn’t a mud splash or snow track to be found, not even at the door.
When we finally arrive at the Diplomat Room, the first thing that catches my attention is Morgan Freeman, standing just to the right of the door. (He’s a lot taller than he appears in fills. ) To those of us who’d been waiting at the gate for nearly an hour though , nothing in the room was as important as the nicely sprawled table of nutrition: miniature crispy chicken sandwiches; succulent crab cakes; mixed greens with feta cheese, baby tomatoes, with just enough salad dressing; assorted cookies; and yes even Coca Cola. Needless to say, I found a place to plop my coat and bag and made my way back to the buffet. From looking at the way the “pre-cleared” singers were kind of just hanging out throughout the room, one could have gotten the impression that it was my grandma’s living room and not some exquisitely decorated room, with priceless artwork INSIDE THE WHITE HOUSE. As we made our way back and forth to the buffet, other artists and their entourages move in and out of the room. After some time, I noticed that showtime was drawing near and suggested to Dr. Norris that we might rehearse , especailly since we’d missed the sound check. In the way that only Norris can, he reminded me that he was the conductor and that I should ” Let him handle it.” He was convinced that someone “will be down to escort us up and take us to our rehearsal space.” ( of course he was using his South Carolina-British accent.) Despite my explaining that it was 7:40 and that the show was to start at 8 p.m, he put his foot down …And as is our normal m.o., five minutes later he an epiphany that we should probably rehearse.
At five minutes to 8 p.m, a kind , woman wearing a head set and holding a clip board came and instructed us to follow her. ( This would be the same lady that would save my camera from the wrath of the WHITE HOUSE SECURITY.. thanks ma’am). She escorted us up to the green room ( the room was literally adorned in green, expensive but antique looking wall covering. I say wall covering and not wall paper because I later learned when leaning against the wall that there was something under the covering that made it feel sorta like a trampoline ). All the program participants where in this room: Yolanda Adams, who was tall and majestic; Smokie Robinson, who had a sage-like presence; Natalie Cole, who, less the glittered arm sling, look as though she’d walked off the cover of Ebony magazine; The Freedom Singers- all clad in AFrican garb; and a host of other handlers, stage hands, producers, make-up people, Secret Service, and White House staffers. The room was packed.
One of the producers beckon to the a staffer that we were in the wrong room and we soon found ourselves shuffling to another huge room. When we walked in this room, the Blind Boys of Alabama were standing around laughing. The staffer asked us to move further into the room and we continued to look around at the details of the room. After several minutes a female military official enter the room and informed us that she would be introducing us and that we needed to move as a cluster. At first I assumed that she meant she’d be introducing the choir during the taping. But what she actually meant was that she would be introducing us to Mr. and Mrs. Obama. (calm…..calm…………….ECSTATIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
Dr. Norris was like a kid in candy store, much like rest of us. Everybody seemed to be doing something that include making too much noise because the historic room calmer (“shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh”) soon followed. When it as our turn to move to the greeting room, no one wanted to be first… that is of course, except me. I was happy to lead the line. We moved from one big room ainto another big room and I beckoned for Norris (who somehow always finds his way to the rear of the line despite the fact that he’s moves the slowest) to come to the front. As we waited in the door way watching the President and First Lady greet the Blind Boys, we had no idea that we were blocking Joe and Jill Biden, who were happy to shack our hands as they eased past us.
Finally it was our turn to personally meet the President and First Lady of these United States of America.
I have never felt more proud to be a Howard student.
The President and First Lady shook our hands and made much of our being from Howard. Despite my effort to stand right next to the President, I was shuffled over my Leon Clark, to whom I happily relinquished my coveted post.
(Everything after this is point is essentially minutia. I performed, laughed, joked, had a great time; gawked at Jennifer Hudson, collected autographs; evaded Dr. Norris request to leave for nearly an hour because we couldn’t find Brandon, whispered about Bob Dylan, took a picture with Natalie Cole, cracked jokes with Yolanda Adams, and tried not to be embarrassed by some of the groupies in our group. A few of us contemplated staying and enjoying the show but of course no one had the guts to do it. (Had it not been a blizzrd outside, you know I would have had no problem staying.) When we departed, Bob, our driver, was happy to give some of the singers curb-side service to their dorms. Thanks Bob!
So there it is… my journey to the White House… I hope you enjoyed reading it as much I enjoyed living it..
Signed~ The Guy in the Red Fitted