clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Go-go is poised to become D.C.’s official music

Unanimously supported legislation would give the genre that status

The Chuck Brown Memorial at D.C.’s Chuck Brown Memorial Park
Getty Images

Original post, June 4:

Go-go music has long been a cultural touchstone of the District, but in recent weeks, it has been at the heart of a grassroots movement called “Don’t Mute D.C.,” launched after a Shaw store was told to shut off recorded go-go it had played outside its doors for years. (The music came back on following quickly organized community protests.) Now, a new bill authored by Ward 5 D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie and co-introduced by the entire D.C. Council would designate go-go as the city’s official music. It would also support go-go’s preservation.

McDuffie proposed the bill at the Council’s legislative meeting Tuesday. “To me and so many other native Washingtonians, go-go music has become so much more than just a musical genre,” he said. “It is the very fabric of the city’s cultural and artistic expression. In every beat of the conga or groove of the drum, the story of the District of Columbia is being told.” The measure would require the mayor to “design and implement a program to support, preserve, and archive go-go music and its related documents and recordings,” McDuffie’s office notes.

D.C. native Chuck Brown—known as the “godfather of go-go”—is memorialized around the city, including at a Northeast park named in his honor; there’s also an annual Chuck Brown Day. McDuffie’s bill comes at a time when the District, once called “Chocolate City,” reckons with gentrification and displacement. Recently, the councilmember also pitched legislation that would require considerations about racial equity in the District government’s decisions.

The go-go proposal has been referred to the Council’s committee of the whole for a hearing.

Update, October 29:

The D.C. Council is scheduled to hold a hearing on the go-go legislation Wednesday at 4 p.m. More than 40 people have signed up to testify, including go-go artists Anwan “Big G” Glover and Michelle Blackwell as well as local activists Ron Moten and Tony Lewis Jr., who helped organize the Don’t Mute D.C. movement earlier in 2019. Angie Gates, who directs the Office of Cable Television, Film, Music and Entertainment, will testify for the District government.