Our time in history

Local Boulderite plans The People’s Inaugural Ball to bring community together

Charlie Stein (middle) organized the event.

Election night was rough for many citizens around the country. Boulder resident Charlie Stein swung from disbelief to shock to sadness. In the aftermath, those feelings were hard to shake, and Stein felt he needed an outlet.

“I can’t do what I normally do, which is just to keep them inside and deal with them myself,” he says. “And so I thought, ‘What do I do now, as a response?’”

One day, post-election, when chatting with a friend, Stein said he hoped there would be reactionary events surrounding Inauguration Day in Boulder. Though the friend was positive there would be, Stein wasn’t so sure.

“In that moment I thought maybe our community could be together on that night,” he says. “To be together and to celebrate, not to just let events of life — which change all the time, it’s not just the election — keep us down.”

Initially, Stein thought he’d throw a party at his house, but as interest grew the party turned into the People’s Inaugural Ball at the Boulder Theater. On Jan. 20, the lineup features the Hazel Miller Band, Chris Daniels, Michael Hornbuckel, Lisa Watkins, DJ Matt Vorzimer the eCUSSIONIST, comedian Nancy Norton and more.

The People’s Inaugural Ball serves as an alternative to wallowing in the current political situation.

“I think when some of us think of that day, one option is to be at home with a glass of wine or a tub of ice cream and a box of tissues,” he says. “Or the other one is to say, ‘Hey, let’s look forward and find ways to take this energy and do something positive with it.’ It’s really meant to be a fun party, as well as something with meaning.”

Event planning is fairly new for Stein, although he’s hosted some small events, including Boulder Dance Days on the library lawn. “A mini Boulder Creek Festival,” he calls it, before the Creek Fest existed. He’s lived in the city since he graduated from the University of Colorado in 1973, and has since focused on running InJoy, which educates parents on pregnancy and child rearing.

“So I’ve never booked the Boulder Theater before,” Stein says with a laugh. “It’s a little nerve wracking, but I’ve gotten a lot of positive support.”

But the ball isn’t just about the election, it’s also meant to shed light on those around the community who are in need. Stein is partnering with a variety of local nonprofits and all proceeds from the ball will be divided among the organizations: Boulder County CareConnect, Boulder Food Rescue, Out Boulder County, Mental Health Partners, Boulder County AIDS Project, Voices For Children CASA, Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence, Bridge House, Intercambio, Attention Homes, One Colorado, and Wildlands Restoration Volunteers.

Each charity will be at the ball, in an effort to not only receive financial donations but also to recruit new volunteers.

“There’s a lot of volunteer turnover but it’s a fresh year and here’s a fresh group of volunteers to help these folks succeed in their mission,” Stein says.

Hazel Miller will be among the performers at The People’s Inaugrual Ball.
Hazel Miller will be among the performers at The People’s Inaugrual Ball. Courtesy of Charlie Stein

Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence is a human rights organization for domestic violence survivors that provides a 24-hour hotline, a safe shelter, legal advocacy, counseling, outreach education and children’s service for people affected by intimate partner violence.

With the upcoming political switch, Mary Pierce, with Safehouse’s development team, says they hope to help those who might become even more marginalized, including women and immigrants.

“We’ve been looking, since the day of the election, for ways to reach out into our community to educate people about social justice issues,” Pierce says. “[At the ball] I hope we can sign up some new volunteers and ignite some new passion for young people who are disenfranchised with what’s happening in our country today. … It’s a great way for everyone to come together with solidarity.”

Stein’s daughter, Tirzah Stein, will also be at the ball with her organization Calling In For Racial Justice, which is a social media platform and campaign created to awake and engage people susceptible to white privilege. Tirzah was inspired to start Calling In after recognizing the amount of police brutality and racial inequality in the country.

“People of color are experiencing racism every day,” she says. “But the people who have the privilege in the society have more of the responsibility to dismantle that oppression and white supremacy that is a huge part of our country.”

This starts with opening a dialogue. Part of the organization’s outreach is a photo challenge Tirzah created where participants hold a whiteboard to exclaim they are against oppression, and gives them a chance to write in what they support: things like compassion, community, racial justice or speaking up.

She’ll be running a photo booth at the ball, encouraging people to open up and connect.

“These events are really important because they bring people together,” she says. “I think a lot of people don’t know what to do and they can feel overwhelmed. So being able to bring the community of Boulder together to say, ‘Hey, this is something you can do.’ … That really is going to encourage that within people, to take action, not to stay silent or stay inside.”

When Stein first started this project he had no idea it would grow into what it has become. With little event planning background, he took it upon himself to create an outlet for people who are frustrated to take action.

While it’s been a learning curve for him, he’s realized the necessity to push past fear and move forward, ask for help when needed and to trust that good things will happen. All of which are lessons he wants others to take away from the ball.

“I hope this event spurs enough individuals to think about what they want to do next, whether it’s volunteering for a local organization or helping that organization be more successful or making their own organization,” he says. “Or them asking themselves, ‘What can I do? How can I help in this time in history?’”

On the Bill: The People’s Inaugural Ball. 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-478-5010.

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