Going on the 26th year of their Chosen Few Picnic, these eight pivotal House ambassadors blew us away once again when pictures were posted all over social media of their recent visit to the White House.
We always knew they had a connection with President Obama, particularly after last year’s 25th anniversary picnic when Obama appeared on a giant screen and addressed the thousands of revelers on his support of House Music. But how exactly has this connection been made?
Beyond just a cosmetic visit, our President’s support goes deeper with respect to Chicago and its history of unrest. With the events that they throw, the Chosen Few have shown that you can have massive gatherings with tens of thousands of people and not one incident of violence. Alan King gives us the exclusive rundown on the Chosen Few’s visit to the White House in May.
So tell us what precipitated this visit to the White House and who exactly went?
As you know, the President was kind enough to record a video greeting for us last year for the 25th Anniversary Chosen Few Picnic. While he certainly has an appreciation for House Music, what’s really caught his attention is the success of our event from the standpoint of being able to bring tens of thousands of people together on the south side of Chicago with no violence and no drama. Despite what some may think, what’s happening back here in his hometown weighs heavily on him. So what precipitated the visit was really the Chosen Few DJs wanting to first thank the President in person for his very kind gesture in recording the video for us, but more importantly to share with him some of the community activities involving young people that the Chosen Few DJs are working on through our foundation, The Beyond the Groove Foundation. In terms of who went from the Chosen Few, it was all seven DJs, myself, Wayne Williams, Jesse Saunders, Tony Hatchett, Andre Hatchett, Terry Hunter and Mike Dunn, along with our Chosen Few sister Kim Parham, and we each could bring one guest.
I know you have a relationship with the Obamas, dating back a long time ago. Tell us about that relationship? Is the President someone with whom you could just pick up the phone and call at any time?
I guess I knew them when! Yes, the Obamas have been close family friends for many years, so I’ve had a fairly unique vantage point to see this whole thing unfold. It’s all still pretty surreal, but I couldn’t be more proud of them and the job he’s done, and how the entire family has represented the country with such grace and dignity while remaining very down to earth. As far as our relationship, I can’t say I have him on speed dial, but let’s just say I can get to him when I need to, and since he’s been in office I still see him fairly regularly, whether it’s in D.C. or when he’s back here in Chicago or elsewhere. The absolute best thing for me about this most recent visit to the White House was making it happen for my Chosen Few brothers and sister and their families! Although being at the White House never gets old, I’ve probably been there 10 or so times since the Obamas have been in office.
So what was the itinerary of the Chosen Few’s trip? What were some of the highlights?
The visit basically consisted of a very nice guided tour of the White House, which ended with us waiting in the Rose Garden for the President to come out of the Oval Office to spend a few minutes talking with us and taking some photos. Needless to say, he didn’t have to do this, so I am deeply appreciative. Despite our friendship, it’s not something he would do unless he saw some real value and meaning in what the Chosen Few DJs are doing and plan to do that goes far beyond just playing and making music. I guess the other highlights of the day were leaving the President with some custom Chosen Few swag, and spending some time with the First Dogs, Bo and Sunny!
Many have said that Obama is a Househead, I guess it’s something we all assume because he grew up in Chicago? I think I saw an old photo of Frankie with Barack & Michelle from many years ago?
Many have assumed that, but honestly it would probably be a bit of a stretch to call him a “Househead.” Barack didn’t actually move to Chicago until after college, so he didn’t really grow up with it. However, he gets it and certainly has a healthy appreciation for House Music. What’s really cool is I think he’s starting to get the potential of House Music and House culture in terms of helping to address some of the problems back home in Chicago. The photo of Barack and Michelle with Frankie was actually taken at Oprah’s Legends Ball several years ago, where Frankie was the DJ.
The president has shown his support for the culture of House via his letter of condolence during Frankie’s passing, the video he shot for the Chosen Few Picnic, am I missing anything else?
In addition to those things, Barack was also involved back when he was an Illinois state senator in getting the honorary street dedicated to Frankie near the Warehouse, Honorary Frankie Knuckles Way. I mean, how cool is this President!
Disco, Love and the DJs that brought House Music to the White House: originally published inside 5 Magazine Issue #131, featuring Al Kent, Quentin Harris, The Chosen Few DJs in Washington, Anaxander and more. Become a member of 5 Magazine for First & Full access to everything House Music – on sale for just $1 an issue!