DNC Diary, Day 2: Grieving Mothers, Celebrities, More Celebrities and Bill

Media Guy Simon Dumenco Reports From the Second Night of the Democratic National Convention

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Mothers of the Movement took the stage on Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention.
Mothers of the Movement took the stage on Day 2 of the Democratic National Convention. Credit: ABC/Ida Mae Astute

Full disclosure: Despite my best attempts at maintaining some pretense of journalistic objectivity, the simple fact of the matter is that if people around me start crying, I will probably, at the very least, start to get moist-eyed.

There were a lot of people in tears at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Tuesday night as Mothers of the Movement took the stage at the Democratic National Convention. Three of the seven on stage -- all mothers of young African-Americans whose lives were cut short -- spoke, including Geneva Reed-Veal, who began,

One year ago yesterday, I lived the worst nightmare anyone could imagine. I watched as my daughter, Sandra Bland, was lowered into the ground in a coffin. Sandy, my fourth of five daughters, was gone. No, not on administrative leave, but on permanent leave from this earth, found hanging in a jail cell after an unlawful traffic stop and an unlawful arrest. Six other women died in custody that same month: Kindra Chapman, Alexis McGovern, Sarah Lee Circle Bear, Raynette Turner, Ralkina Jones, and Joyce Curnell. So many of our children gone but not forgotten.

The woman sitting next to me was already choking back tears when Reed-Veal said, "What a blessing to be here tonight, so that Sandy can still speak through her mama."

The Mothers of the Movement, who enthusiastically endorsed Hillary Clinton, were followed by R&B singer Andra Day, whose powerful performance of her single "Rise Up" was almost too much to take.

When the silence isn't quiet
And it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
And I know you feel like dying
But I promise we'll take the world to its feet
And move mountains
Bring it to its feet
And move mountains
And I'll rise up
I'll rise like the day
I'll rise up
I'll rise unafraid
I'll rise up

I don't know quite how to convey the emotion in the packed arena. But in the context of a political convention largely built around the usual political-convention structure of (boring) speech after (kind of OK) speech after (meh) speech, the juxtaposition of grieving mother-activists and a truly soulful singer was riveting.

I went into the arena on Tuesday with trepidation, given the number of celebrities that were slated to speak. But at least actresses Lena Dunham and America Ferrera, who came out together, had a purpose other than to serve as millennial-celebrity window dressing. Specifically, they were on hand to call attention to Donald Trump's brutal descriptions of women in the public eye and his equally brutal take on the inevitable criminality of immigrants.

"I'm Lena Dunham," said the "Girls" star, "and according to Donald Trump my body is probably like a two." "And I'm America Ferrera," said the "Ugly Betty" star, "and according to Donald Trump I'm probably a rapist."

"We know what you're all thinking," Ms. Dunham added. "Why should you care about what some television celebrity has to say about politics?" Ms. Ferrera delivered the zinger: "We agree, but this is the Republican nominee so we have to talk about him."

Actress/director and host for the evening Elizabeth Banks (the star of Ad Age's April 4 cover) also dinged Trump, mocking his entrance to Queen's "We Are the Champions" at the RNC in Cleveland last week.

As for putting one of the most famous people in the world on stage for nearly 45 minutes in the 10 p.m. primetime block, you could argue that that was the ultimate celebrity-overkill moment of the night, but it turns out the Democratic presidential nominee is married to the guy. (No surprise that master orator and uber-empath Bill Clinton charmed the arena with what everyone's been calling his "love letter" speech. Honestly, he had the crowd at hello with his aw-shucks opening line: "In the spring of 1971, I met a girl.")

Actual overkill? Meryl Streep, followed by a set by Alicia Keys. Everybody seemed to have forgotten they were slated to appear after Bill Clinton; convention-goers started to file out of the Wells Fargo Center as soon as he wrapped up. (Nobody should ever have to follow Bill.)

Another miscalculation: Sticking Hillary Clinton's brief appearance, via videolink from New York, on at the very end -- with her grinning face appearing to shatter through a giant screen that had just shown photos of every (male) president in U.S. history.

The visualization was, of course, meant to convey how Hillary Clinton will shatter the last glass ceiling if she becomes the first female U.S. president, but instead it kind of came off like Apple's famous "1984" Super Bowl commercial.

I looked around for a Bernie Sanders supporter with a sledgehammer but didn't see one.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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