Hundreds gathered at Freedom Plaza yesterday despite the unseasonably cold temperatures to continue the celebratory festivities of Washington DC’s 152nd Emancipation Day. It's a district-only holiday that marks the anniversary of the date former President Abraham Lincoln freed the city's 3,100 slaves back in 1862. About nine months later President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law. DC blacks actually stopped celebrating this holiday back in 1902, but council member Vincent Orange revived it 100 years later and despite some controversy it continues. Although there was a 30% increase in the overall budget to $350,000 there was still a dispute with Orange over who would pay for the police officers’ overtime budget. Mayor Gray opted to pay it supposedly with the understanding that the Mayor’s Office will run future Emancipation Day’s which might not be such a bad idea considering next year will be the 10th Anniversary of this revitalized celebration. Plus everybody knows if the DC Mayor’s Office (Specifically this year’s candidates.) knows how to do anything right, it’s definitely how to throw a party.
The day capped off at Freedom Plaza with a wonderful music concert that lasted into the evening. Multiple genres were represented on stage from Jazz to hip hop and even a little spoken word in between. Brian Lenair accompanied with full band opened up the concert with a spirited saxophone solo of Lift Every Voice and Sing as well as selections from his previous album Eye of the Storm. He’s very talented. At one point he was playing two different saxophones at once. Definitely check him out. Black Alley also graced the stage briefly with lead singer Kacey bouncing around stage delivering vocals as usual. They then gave way for the Baron of Beat Box, Hip Hop legend Doug E. Fresh to take the stage. He served as ringleader of the psychedelic circus that was to unfold; summoning current favorites like Raheem DeVaughn and Talib Kweli as well as blasts from past like Arrested Development and the legendary MC Lyte. There was even spoken word representation from performance poet & author J Ivy (HBO Def Poetry) and out of nowhere DJ Kool appeared and hyped the crowd to the stratosphere. The evening concluded with the DJ spinning throwback hits and Doug E. Fresh inviting the kids on stage to do ‘The Dougie’ he then showed everyone why he is the original Doug E., and got down on stage while the crowd cheered and chanted him on. An amazing fireworks display went off and so did the concert, without a hitch.