Earlier this week, BET aired Love and Happiness: A Musical Experience—a concert tribute to Barack Obama. This was the same event that Dave Chappelle referenced in his recent Saturday Night Live monologue—you can spot Bradley Cooper in the audience, just like Chappelle promised.
The overriding tone of the BET special was bittersweet, a look at black joy in the White House. The show was taped in late October, well before anyone knew the presidency was doomed to Donald Trump’s hateful worldview. It wasn’t that long ago when black people couldn’t even get into the White House; on that October night, it became a free black space for a short time. But white nationalists will soon be walking its halls.
If it doesn’t hit you that this the cruelest hairpin turn in American history, there’s this clip of the show’s predominantly black audience surfing to Fast Life Yungstaz’s modern nightlife spiritual, “Swag Surfin’.” DJ D-Nice, who held down after-party duties at the White House’s East Room, reposted a clip of the attendees dancing in unison. The Washington Post published an account of the iconic moment in after-party DJ’ing history.
At about 10 p.m., attendees headed to the East Room for the after-party starring DJ D-Nice. And that is when things really got loose. According to one source, folks tried to “look cute” while the legendary DJ spun old- and new-school hits but “that ended quickly.” By this point in the night the president was sans jacket and tie, with his shirt sleeves rolled up dancing with abandon to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
“You could see that the Obamas felt very comfortable,” said our source. “They were with their people — and I don’t mean African Americans — people who’d supported them and held them up and allowed them to do what they do. It was a really special night.”
You smile at this anecdote until it hits you: It’ll be a long while before we ever see this display of preternatural rhythm and jubilance in the White House. The Unblackening has happened and for the next few years we’ll look at these seconds-long clips as distant, idyllic memories. Chappelle thrives in absurdities, but they’re often grounded in truth. He wasn’t lying when he said that night at the White House was a beautiful thing.