Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. (Susan Walsh/AP)

When Holder, accompanied by his wife, Sharon Malone, and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson and a couple of Secret Service agents and Park Police officers,  made their way to their seats on Saturday at the Carter Barron Amphitheater, only a few people seemed to notice initially. Then a buzz of recognition quickly spread through the crowd as people began pointing him out.

Isn’t that Eric Holder?

Yeah, that is Eric Holder.

Who’s that?

The attorney general.


Yeah. Those Republicans in Congress have been really beating up on him.

Soon the mostly black crowd was on its feet loudly applauding and cheering him. Holder, looking a bit surprised and embarrassed by the attention, stood up, waved at the crowd and appeared to mouth, “Thank you.” People sitting in nearby aisles went up to him and offered handshakes; a few reached over and patted him on the shoulder.

It was a momentary love-fest at the 4,200-seat theater, a hang-in-there-brother acknowledgment that seemed to say, “We understand. We know you’re not being treated fairly. We’ve got your back.”  If there ever was an inside the beltway event with a conspicuously outside the beltway sensibility, this was it. The concert goers weren’t youngsters, a good swath were probably of the same generation as the 61-year-old Holder, and very likely just as unhappy with the way the first black U.S. attorney general is being treated by Republican lawmakers as they are with the way the first black U.S. president is being treated by them. It’s no secret that many black people  believe the attacks and criticisms of President Obama and Attorney General Holder are not only political but also racial in nature. A causal listen to black talk radio or a read of black-oriented news sites will confirm that many folks think both men are being repeatedly attacked largely by white Republicans hostile to the notion of black men being in charge.

And so it went on Saturday night. If Republicans on Capitol Hill could so casually close ranks against Holder, making him the first sitting attorney general to be charged with contempt, well, black folks could certainly close ranks in support of him. Even the old-school, 70’s era black R&B groups performing on stage — Ray Goodman & Brown, The Stylistics – took time to acknowledge his presence and thank him for his public service. 

“It really meant a lot to him,” Malone said the day after the concert, adding that they were both touched by the show support and appreciation.