Preserve Go-Go Preserve Culture
Black culture is under attack. Attempts to erase the DC’s Malcolm X Park Sunday Drummers Circle have been unsuccessful- so far. But, the attempt to remove that iconic gathering is similar to what is happening in the historic Shaw community of DC. GoGo music has played from a speaker in that intersection for years. Now, someone has complained and forced the store owner mute his music.
This type of cultural erasure is a national emergency. The book #ColorOfLaw exposes how Black people have suffered strategic #urbanremoval for decades. Gentrification, fueled by $$, often displaces us. Political manipulation and discriminatory legislation works to erase us.
As a member of the city government, if you are so outraged, I urge elected officials to reclaim our city. Stop selling DC to the highest bidder. Save the elements that make DC, DC. Designate that corner, where 7th, Georgia Ave., U St. & Florida intersect, “The Go-Go Corner”. You could bypass #T-Mobile #MetroPCS attempt to mute us. Empower the #DontMuteDC hashtag by creating policies that gives our history a place and this homegrown music a microphone.
The Plan Is Real
“I love love this place, now change it” is not inclusive revitalization.
I moved to DC in 1985 because I knew wanted to move to a predominantly Black city. I had a taste of the city during visits, while an undergrad, to the Howard University Communications Conference. House music, amazing dance clubs & Black culture — everywhere — was part of my appreciation of what DC has to offer. I took a chance on DC, undeterred by the headlines focused on murders and crack addiction and urban neglect. I lived in the H St corridor before the trolley and Whole Foods and $500,000 median housing prices. I knew what I was getting into. I wanted a better city, too, but I didn’t want it to lose its flavor. It hurts to see that.
Back in the day, when DC was “Black Black”, I heard Black elders talk about “The Plan”; or, the plot for the predominantly Black D.C. to be taken over by white people. The indigenous had long heard the dire warning, but that threat would be foreign to newcomers. But, every promise of growth and improvement, offered by politicians didn’t seem to include the indigenous. The promise of a vibrant downtown or Southwest Waterfront sounded like, “Black? Get back,” to those who have seen their lives segregated or bulldozed before. Displacement isn’t new to people of color in America.
At a conversation about the book, Capital Dilemma, Growth and Inequality in Washington, D.C., a couple years ago, I posed a question about “The Plan”, and the room buzzed with a lot of “uh huhs” of affirmations from those who know the story. See, there were those who heard about The Plan and they didn’t see it as an opportunity for them to thrive. The Plan wasn’t officially written, back then — as far as I know. It was folklore that had credence in the hearts and minds of the people. Now, we see that the folklorists were, in fact, fortune-tellers or even futurists. The Plan is real. And, The Plan takes various shapes, but maintains a key ingredient that ousts indigenous peoples from their lands across the globe.
It was Gospel before Go-Go
This slow stripping away of DC history & disrespect for the indigenous people and ways life isn’t new. The METRO’s Yellow & Green line installation led to the deaths of several Black businesses along the U St./Shaw corridor. New dwellers wouldn’t realize the rich American history that permeated that corridor. The heritage trail/cultural markers are cute, but they dont embody the story like real life & real people. Would you travel to Egypt to see a plaque where the pyramids once stood?
Before there was The Ellington apartments — with a tanning salons — the Duke and an abundancr of naturally tanned Black folk shashayed and pranced and danced and learned and taught snd lived in the Shaw community. The incredible website Black Broadway on U St. celebrates that rich history. It beautifully guides you through what once was. Much of its cultural richness — because of development — has been relegated to words on signs.
Just a few years ago, in the same Shaw neighborhood, historically Black churches were at risk of losing increasingly precious parking spaces gor parishoners, so bike lanes could be added. Those churches stood up to the elected officials who were comfortable with giving developers & gentrifiers their way. SomIt, too, became a racialized conflict. The churches were Black. The cyclists were perceived as only being white. I’m Black and rode bikes on DC streets for years (without bike lanes), so I reject the “whites on bikes” debate (and the midsperception that Blacks can’t gentrify). Other cities are going through similar battles over development “plans”, which produce similar social, class & racial conflicts. But, I know, too, that it’s a metaphor for the threat against Black communities who lose pieces of themselves to bike lanes, dog parks, yoga studios & coffee shops — the 2.0 ingredients of urban removal. Black folk bike, drink coffee, have dogs & meditate. The prevailing questions are universal:
Why don’t cities & developers care about the well-being of indigenous people?
Why don’t complaints, from Black people, about poor city services get the same sense of urgency as they do when the demographics change?
We are More than Historical Markers
Around the corner from the Go-Go
Do something & put speakers at that intersection with GoGo pumping at all four corners. Create an artistic marker in the center of the road of that intersection. Fund murals on the buildings in that intersection, which capture the beauty of the music and people. What colonizers of any place strive to do is silence the indigenous. It’s up to the people to demand their legislators step up to preserve history and heritage. Permanent places and spaces are needed to keep the stories alive for future generations. There’s property near there that the city and/or Howard University owns, right? Create a Go-Go Heritage Museum!
If you are really outraged, then we expect you to do something. #GetUpDC Call your members of DC City Council and #DefendDC #CelebrateGoGo #DecolonizeDC #DefendChocolateCity!
UPDATE: There was a victory in that the Metro PCS store got support from the parent company and the music is back on! Don’t sleep. It’s one battle in a long war to preserve DC culture. #MOECHELLA speaks to an awakening. The war for DC goes on.