POLITICS

D.C. Bill Would Make Go-Go The 'Official Music' Of The Gentrifying District

"This music represents the lived experiences of native Washingtonians,” Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie said in a press release.

A city council member in Washington, D.C., has introduced legislation that would make go-go music the District of Columbia’s “official” music, as community members continue ongoing efforts to protect the gentrifying city’s black culture.

Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie introduced the Go-Go Official Music of the District of Columbia Designation Act of 2019 on Tuesday, as a nod to the city’s music history, and as a response to the growing #DontMuteDC movement, which aims to combat the erasure of the city’s indigenous go-go music and black culture and businesses.  

Along with proclaiming an official music genre for the city, the legislation would also require the D.C. mayor, Muriel Bowser, “to design and implement a program to support, preserve, and archive Go-Go music and its related documents and recordings,” a press release stated. 

“Designating Go-Go the official music of the city signals to those who have been here and to those who continue to move here, that this music represents the lived experiences of native Washingtonians,” McDuffie said in a statement. “It codifies into law that Go-Go will never be muted in the District of Columbia.”

The new legislation comes months after a clash over the presence of go-go music at a famed D.C. intersection ignited a series of rallies and protests to protect the city’s indigenous music.

In April, Donald Campbell, the owner of a Metro PCS storefront — located on a block named after the “Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown in the District’s Shaw neighborhood — said he was instructed to stop playing go-go music outside his store due to a complaint from a resident at a nearby luxury apartment complex. 

Go-go, which combines elements of funk, soul and other styles, has long been a staple of D.C.’s history. It has notably been played outdoors at the storefront’s intersection of Florida and Georgia avenues for decades. 

The absence of the music sparked a series of demonstrations, rallies, go-go-styled celebrations and the #DontMuteDC hashtag on Twitter. 

While the demonstrations successfully returned the sounds of go-go music back to the intersection, grassroots organizers have continued to address what they say is the underlying issue regarding the go-go intersection debacle: the effects gentrification has on the city’s black businesses, black culture and racial profiling

“What happened was really big and really important,” Howard University assistant professor Natalie Hopkinson told HuffPost in April. “Hopefully people got educated, but the work is not over. I would not declare a victory, there’s a lot of work.”

Hopkinson and community activist Ronald Moten created a petition back in April to push back on the erasure of go-go music at the Metro PCS storefront. They later updated their campaign to raise awareness on the closures of black businesses, Howard University’s research on gentrification and Campbell’s efforts to convert tens of thousands of live go-go recordings into an online streaming service. 

A March study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition identified D.C. as having the highest percentage of gentrifying neighborhoods in the U.S., with an estimation that 20,000 black residents were displaced between 2000 and 2013.

Moten told The Washington Post in an article published Tuesday that the idea to make go-go the District’s “official” music is “a great thing.”

“When people come here, they don’t know D.C., they don’t know our culture,” he continued. “It’s that ignorance that causes people to disrespect our culture. So if we make it law, if we protect it, they’ll start to understand.”

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