More than a month after successfully countering a censure of the go-go sound on 7th Street and Florida Avenue in Northwest, the founders of the #DontMuteDC movement continue to push back against concerns that their efforts won’t go beyond quasi protests, go-go functions and musings about the genre’s cultural significance.
During Saturday’s Funk Parade, the men credited for engineering the mass mobilization of go-go industry giants and fans — Kymone Freeman, Tone P, Ron Moten and Yaddiya — framed #DontMuteDC in the context of economic and social systems that have displaced Black Washingtonians for decades.
“With gentrification being a hot topic, #DontMuteDC has political and emotional power. It can [continue to] put the spotlight on this issue, and sway our council members to pass some policy on the back end,” said Tone P, an award-winning producer.
Tone P revealed plans to launch a youth music program, sponsored by the DC Housing Authority and the Do the Write Thing campaign, for young people living in his stomping grounds of Southwest.
He said the upcoming workshop is similar to a two-month class he hosted at Kelly Miller Middle School in Northeast last year that culminated in the production of a musical collaboration between some of his students and D.C. artist Lightshow.
Tone P said these programs further familiarize the youth with go-go’s impact and embolden them to pick up the mantle in protecting the sound.
“The conversation goes beyond music,” he said. “When you displace people, you displace culture. This program, named My Mixtape Workshop, merges the trap genre and homegrown go-go music. It keeps up with the young people’s spirit and upbringing.”
Tone P’s April 8 tweet — in response to a tip that the T-Mobile Corporation, pressured by people living in a Shaw-area condo, told Central Communications to stop playing go-go music outside of its 7th and Florida location — compelled more than 50 people to gather and blast go-go music in protest in the CVS Pharmacy parking lot across the street from Central Communications.
From the onset, D.C. Council members Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1), Robert White (D-At large), and Trayon White (D-Ward 8) stood alongside #DontMuteDC protesters. Nadeau, whose constituency includes the Shaw business community, sent the T-Mobile Corporation a letter in a show of support for Central Communications owner Don Campbell.
On the day following the protest, Takeova Band, also known as TOB, headlined a protest/go-go function outside of Frank D. Reeves Center on the corner of 14th and U streets in Northwest. That Wednesday, to the amazement of native Washingtonians and go-go fans, Campbell announced the T-Mobile Corporation reversed the order that sparked #DontMuteDC activities.
Since then, the District streets haven’t been quiet, thanks in part to Yaddiya, the local artist and activist who coordinated the first demonstration on April 9 outside of the Reeves Center. Subsequent iterations, including the large-scale event known as Moechella, have garnered local and national attention.
On the night of May 7, more than 4,000 people packed the intersection of 14th and U streets to dance to the sounds of Backyard Band and ABM. With another installment of Moechella in the works for this summer, Yaddiya described it as the start of a more complex strategy to address gentrification and its effects on D.C. culture.
“The first step is unity,” Yaddiya, surrounded by Tone P and Kymone Freeman, said at U Street Music Hall on Saturday during a Funk Parade press conference. “This is just the starting point. It’s a pep rally and we’re getting prepared to do the dirty work and have these conversations.
“It’s been a great spark and great energy,” Yaddiya said. “My heart is full, having [go-go group BackYard Band co-founder] Big G coming out in the middle of 4,000 people. If you know anything about the history of go-go, then you know that’s a very risky situation, and that says a lot.”