The Forsyth County Democratic Party closed Inauguration Day in style with a festive celebration Monday night.
Dozens flocked to the Millennium Center downtown to take part in “The People’s Ball.” The $5 admission fee and anything goes dress code attracted a diverse group of attendees, just as organizers had hoped.
“(I envisioned) fun. Old, young, black, white, everybody coming together to celebrate Martin Luther King’s dream, which we see in President Obama, and you see it when you look around the room,” said Natasha Smith, who organized the ball with the help of fellow Democrat Camille “Cam” Choiniere. “This is the world that I’ve always wanted to live in.” Watching the president’s inauguration earlier in the day was a poignant moment for Choiniere, who was a registered Republican until 2007.
“I stood in front of the television today with the tears just rolling out of my eyes,” said the mother of one. “I was so happy.” Ball goer Dan Maury admits he never thought he would see the day when a person of color would be elected to the nation’s highest office, let alone re-elected.
“I was born in the segregated south in ’35, so I grew up in a world that most people alive today don’t know or never experienced,” explained the Greensboro native. “…I just could not see that this country was ready to elect a black man. That was my short sidedness.”
Since Obama landed the presidential nomination in 2008, Maury, who retired from his post as executive director of the North Carolina Association of Colleges and Universities 15 years ago, says he has been a diehard supporter, volunteering his services in any way he could to help the campaign. At the close of another historic day on Monday, Maury said he felt compelled to spend the evening among friends.
“To be honest, it’s not my kind of thing to go to parties,” admitted the grandfather of five. “I just wanted to come up and be with likeminded people for a little bit.” Since launching his initial presidential campaign in 2008, President Barack Obama has defied all odds, attracting a religiously, racially and culturally diverse following, said Choiniere, a graphic designer and owner of Cam Choiniere Designs. She believes the president’s ability to appeal and relate to so many different people and groups is one of his greatest assets. Being able to celebrate his legacy by bringing people together through programs like the ball is something Choiniere doesn’t take lightly.
“I’m very grateful to be involved in the system,” said the Salisbury native, who has been active in the party since 2007. “I’m just hoping to make a difference and open people’s eyes and get people involved.”
Board of Elections Member Linda Sutton said she was glad to have a welcoming place to kick back at the culmination of Inauguration Day.
“I’m an appointed member of the Democratic Party and it’s always good to fellowship with people who share your same values and ideas,” she remarked. “This is a historic occasion.”
New York City native Darletris Nelson attended the ball with her good friend Kelli Jordan and Jordan’s son, Kwame Bempah. Nelson, the owner of Short Notice Construction and Renovations, said the president has his work cut out for him this time around.
“Right now, it’s on him – the next four years, he can’t say he’s coming behind somebody,” said the mother of four. “But I think he’s on the right track. I think he’s going in the right direction.”
Anne Wilson, a well known Democrat and gun laws advocate, said she was inspired by Obama’s inaugural speech, which paid homage to the hard won victories of our nation’s past and laid out the road map for the future. His message of unity, equality and caring for fellow citizens resonated with her, Wilson said.
“I don’t know why we can’t just live according to the president’s inauguration speech,” she declared. “…It was idealistic, but it also is realistic. It should be able to be realistic. If we can’t help the least of these in this great country, we’re in a very sad state.”