“Gentrification is cultural genocide, and this is an example of that.”
After an influx of white people invaded Washington, D.C., at breakneck speed in recent years, the city’s paling population has apparently aimed its gentrifying sights on one of the District’s most prized cultural inventions: go-go music. The genre of music and regional phenomenon created in the nation’s capital has reportedly become the object of angst to new residents in the city’s historically Black Shaw neighborhood.
According to a new report from the DCist, there have been complaints about a cellphone store in Shaw playing go-go music, which is typically described as funky percussion-based instrumentation that is many times compared to a junkyard band (in fact, one of the top go-go groups is called Junk Yard Band).
The Metro PCS store on the historic corner of 7th Street and Florida in Northwest Washington has been playing go-go music without any complaint for nearly a quarter of a century, the owner told the DCist. But that all changed about a month ago when T-Mobile, Metro PCS’ parent company, ordered an end to the musical tradition, Donald Campbell said.
“Generations of Howard students, generations of people know that I play music every single day,” Campbell said, adding with irony that locals who were familiar with his store have complained about the lack of go-go music.
An online petition to keep the store playing its go-go-music was nearing its goal of 10,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
“Gentrification is cultural genocide, and this is an example of that,” he said. “If people wanted to move in and respected the culture, this kind of thing wouldn’t happen.”
The District of Columbia has become Ground Zero for gentrification in the nation, according to statistics compiled by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC), which works to attain and preserve fairness when it comes to small businesses, affordable housing and more.
“Washington, D.C., was the most gentrified city by percentage of eligible neighborhoods that experienced gentrification,” NCRC wrote in a report entitled Shifting Neighborhoods. “Neighborhoods were considered to be eligible to gentrify if in 2000 they were in the lower 40 percent of home values and family incomes in that metropolitan area.”
Gentrifiers in D.C. were backing last year’s Amplified Noise Amendment Act of 2018, which would have allowed police to jail any offenders playing loud music.
Another recent example of the surging gentrification in the city was the historically Black Lincoln Congregational Temple United Church of Christ, which was forced to shut its doors in October, nearly 150 years after it was founded following the end of slavery.
The influx of young white millennials had changed D.C.’s racial makeup. African-American residents in the historically black Shaw-Logan Circle area plummeted from 65 percent to 29 percent between 1990 to 2010, according to census data.
Go-go music was invented by D.C. native Chuck Brown in the early 1970s, according to the Smithsonian Institute. His song “Bustin’ Loose” is perhaps the genre’s most recognizable tune, along with E.U.’s “Da Butt,” which was immortalized in Spike Lee‘s seminal film, “School Daze.”
For many D.C. locals and natives alike, go-go music is just as important to the city’s cultural history as the Washington Monument or Ben’s Chili Bowl or anything else typically associated with the nation’s capital.
“Without go-go, Washington loses part of its soul and continues its steady march toward becoming richer, whiter—less funktified,” Howard University professor Natalie Hopkinson wrote in the Washington Post in 2010.