City Hall Plaza’s most infamous moment came in 1976, when an anti-busing protester swung a pole bearing an American flag at a black lawyer. But an alternative vision of the ’70s, and of much-maligned City Hall Plaza, came to life Friday evening — at the free Donna Summer Memorial Roller Disco Tribute Party sponsored by the Walsh administration’s Office of Arts and Culture and the annual dance music festival Together Boston. The famous disco singer, who died in 2012, grew up in Dorchester; the accident of her stage surname was enough to justify a tribute party on a crystal-clear night in July.
By any measure, the event was a success: It attracted a large and far more diverse crowd than most public events in Boston. Cutting across lines of ethnicity and sexual orientation, the party drew not just veterans of the disco era, but also little kids and young adults far removed from the cultural upheaval of the ’70s. As darkness fell, people who couldn’t get in to the crowded skating rink could still dance as a Dorchester DJ played “I Feel Love” and other hits. Meanwhile, vendors sold fried dough, Italian ices, and South Asian food.
An appropriate tribute to one of Boston’s underappreciated cultural heroes, the event should be repeated and expanded. Why a Donna Summer tribute party on City Hall Plaza in July? In a resurgent city, the better question is: Why not? When protests give way to roller-disco nostalgia, it’s a sign of progress.