Ronald Moten saw his dream move one step closer to reality Wednesday, as he celebrated the groundbreaking for the construction of the Go-Go Museum, located at 1920 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, in the building that houses his Check It Enterprises.
Surrounded by friends, family, and political, business and artistic leaders including D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and celebrated film director Spike Lee, Moten, the museum’s founder and CEO, could not help but reflect on the impact that go-go music has had on D.C.
“Most people don’t know that Trouble Funk was sampled over 250 times, that one band. Our [children] don’t know that because over 14 years ago it was criminalized,” said Moten, referring to past police policies targeting go-go music in D.C. and its suburbs.
Keyonna Jones, founder and executive director of Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, recalled Moten’s #DontMuteDC campaign, which worked to combat attempts to silence go-go music at a store that sits at the intersection of Florida Avenue NW and 7th Street NW.
“There’s a lot of history,” Jones said. “They said it was too loud… We said go-go isn’t going anywhere.”
In 2020, go-go was declared the official music of D.C. However, the genre’s advocates still work to bring more attention to the importance of the music to the District’s culture today.
Efforts like #DontMuteDC and Long Live GoGo’s Moechella have aimed to solidify the genre’s legacy, and Moten’s museum stands out as another example of working to celebrate the history, present and future of go-go.
Moten speculated that the historic lack of support for go-go could be partially to blame for the spike in youth violence that D.C. has experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We took it out of the schools, we took it out of the clubs, so our young people can’t do what we used to do,” said Moten. “They used to have somewhere to go. We can make places safe for our children and give them the same culture and history that we had.”
During the groundbreaking ceremony, Bowser emphasized that for many Washingtonians, go-go music is more than music, it’s culture.
“To most of us assembled here and many people watching, go-go is not just great music, but it is our childhood, it was the soundtrack to parties we went to after school or on Georgia Avenue or Martin Luther King Avenue, you name it,” Bowser said. “People met each other and became lifelong friends or lifelong lovers at the go-go.”
Backyard Band performs on the Mobile Go-Go Museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in D.C. on Nov. 15. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
In addition to celebrating the groundbreaking, the mayor recognized Lee with a proclamation. His inclusion of the song “Da But” by Sugar Bear and EU in his critically acclaimed movie “School Daze” (1988) sent that song to number one on the charts and made a whole new audience aware of go-go music. Sugar Bear was also present for the event.
Until the official Go-Go Museum opens, a mobile museum will go around the city educating people on the music and its history. The mobile museum was on full display at the Nov. 15 opening, and the legendary Backyard Band performed on top of the history-filled bus.
Nabeeh Bilal, co-founder of CreativeJunkFood, and his partner Candice Taylor conceptualized and designed exhibits that will be showcased in the upcoming museum and the mobile museum.
“This is incredibly humbling. I’m honored,” said Bilal. “I think [the Go-Go Museum] is going to take go-go to even higher heights and we’re going to see a whole new renaissance with D.C. culture in general.”
WI Managing Editor Micha Green contributed to this story.
Source: Washington Informer