This past August, my wife & I attended Le Diner En Blanc, in Washington DC, along with friends. Le Diner En Blanc (DEB) is an exclusive, "all-white-everything" affair. The inaugural event was held in Paris, in 1998. Since then, DEB has expanded to places like Montreal, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Singapore. It now spans six continents.
The concept is the same, in each city. DEB invitees flash-gather in a secretly designated public area and set up temporary, elegant, over-the-top, quasi-chic dining accommodations. The event combines food, wine, music, and an enormous population of people clad in all white attire, toting white coolers, linens, portable furniture and props. DEB has grown largely in popularity, especially among black folk, over the past five years. My wife registered us for the DC event last year as well. Our names were added to the event's wait list but ultimately we did not garner an invitation. This year, DEB was held in the heart of the nation's capital and thanks to my plug in The District, we landed spots on the highly coveted guest list.
DEB registration is quite an intricate process. There are three registration phases. Phase one allows previous DEB members (past attendees) to purchase tickets. Phase two affords the same opportunity to friends invited by those identified in phase one. Phase three offers remaining tickets for sale to individuals on the waiting list.
DEB organizers adhere to a very tight-lipped routine; communicating information strictly to the designated DEB group leaders on a need to know basis, mostly via email. The group leaders, in turn, convey pertinent information to DEB members regarding acceptable attire, group meeting location and time, and a plethora of strict guidelines.
Our group consisted of roughly fifty members. I noticed when we arrived at our assigned meeting spot (George Washington University Yard), there were at least four other groups assembled there as well. There were several other meeting locations spread throughout the host city. When the organizers issued the directive, all of the group leaders directed their entourages in route to the final destination (usually a historic landmark location of the host city).
As we set out on what would ultimately result in a 1.5 mile trek to the still undisclosed destination, I was captivated by the surrounding scenery. What I observed was a diverse sea of people: Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian; donned in white outfits filing peacefully through the streets of Washington DC. The procession entrenched the district's sidewalks and roadways like a white, fleece Snuggie. Eventually, we all emptied on to the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial. Woohoo! We had finally reached our target location.
Upon our arrival at the destination, we spotted DEB members far and near as they frantically scrambled to unpack carts, wagons, and totes. We quickly followed suit then quickly assembled the tables, chairs, and other decor that we lugged along with us. My wife organized our place settings as I unloaded a four course meal from our cooler. We finished our set up just as the crowd began to wave white dinner napkins in the air, thus signaling the official start of the dining hour. For our dinner, we enjoyed spinach salads, beef kabobs, cilantro rice, and broiled crab cakes. We elected to pack our own meal rather than choosing to purchase dinner provided by DEB caterers. However, we did purchase three bottles of Apothic wine which ran about $15 per, since B.Y.O.B is prohibited.
Lots of fraternizing and table visits were exchanged during the dining hour. One of the focal points of DEB is the many elaborate and ornate centerpieces that members design. Many passersby visited our table to compliment our centerpiece. My wife spent several hours, the week before, carefully coordinating our décor. Thankfully, her hard work did not go unnoticed by the masses.
While we ate, drank, and socialized, we were serenaded by a live band. In the interim, we shared food and libations with friends and enjoyed the fellowship.
At around 6:30 PM, just before dusk, five of my friends and I changed into the custom t-shirts that we designed with the intent to bring awareness to a serious matter that has plagued our communities far too frequently. The issue of young, black lives being senselessly taken at the hands of law enforcement agents, is one that hits home for us. To express our concerns, we wore white-on-white t-shirts with the slogan "black lives matter" displayed on the front. Our statement t-shirts were the catalyst for several interesting conversations and even sparked an interview and photo op with reporters from the Washingtonian magazine. We all appreciate a nice party but we never want to lose sight of our strong morals or important issues such as racial profiling.
As the sun began to set, we were instructed by our group leaders to retrieve the sparklers and matches that they distributed to us at some earlier juncture of the event. In an instant, the band's mellow tune quieted to a whisper, a toast was proposed by one of the event's organizers and sparklers were lit ablaze. The following three minutes were the most picturesque of the evening. The grounds of the Lincoln Memorial shone as brightly as the Griswald's Christmas tree.
At the conclusion of the sparkler tradition, the band retired for the evening and the sound system gave way to the musical selections of a DJ. Yes! Finally, after all the hard work, the coordination of outfits, the careful meal preparation, the transporting of goods, the set-up, and all the elbow grease, it was finally time to let loose and party ... and party we did!
DEBDC was an exciting event. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. All of my friends seemed to as well. As I reflect on the event ... even despite the heat, hard work and preparation, I would do it again. There are a few minor details that we would tweak to ensure that the process flowed smoother. Like a moth to a flame, I am drawn in by the secretive nature and mystical allure of the event. I also shamefully enjoy upscale and exclusive events like DEB. Does that make me bourgie?