GoGo is also associated with a history of black people taking up space and fostering community, I believe that music like GoGo is powerful and brings people together to inspire change.
In Washington D.C., Saturday, June 6th was the largest turnout for protests this week and one main reason was because of Moechella, the Coachella for a local music genre called GoGo. For this week’s #TravelFromHome playlist series, I created a GoGo playlist of this lesser known funk genre from my nation’s capital. I believe that music like GoGo is powerful and brings people together to inspire change. GoGo is also associated with a history of black people taking up space and fostering community, which is relevant during these times where conversations about the alternatives of policing and the eradication of white supremacy are in the mainstream. With DC’s GoGo music as the soundtrack, we can create a more just world.
Washington DC’s GoGo music traces back to the early 70s and is a mix of funk, hip hop, and soul with a heavily syncopated and persistent drum and cowbell beat. The genre’s growth in the city is indebted to the “Godfather” of GoGo, Chuck Brown. On the playlist you can hear his song, “Block Party”, as a true ode to the streets with a call and response audience participation. The song’s message is also an example of building community and safety without a need for the police: “Cops harassing, trying to shut us down. But ain’t nobody breaking rules, no we ain’t trying to hurt nobody officer, we ain’t trying to act no fool – we so cool and we’re just trying to move and as long as the beat don’t break, and the wine keep popping, we gonna keep rocking til the cops come knocking”. Unfortunately, there is a common trend in history where predominantly black spaces are a threat to the police and white supremacy. The heavy surveillance shown in “Block Party” is a constant battle for the black community in D.C.. These lyrics also show how GoGo resists white supremacist systems by persisting in the D.C. landscape. Using GoGo, the black community in D.C. takes up space in a city that is rightfully theirs.
This is why GoGo is still important today in a city that has one of the highest gentrification rates leading to the displacement and mistreatment of black people. It’s a city like many others in America where black people are murdered and brutalized by the police. There are two main community organizing groups you should know, Don’t Mute DC and Long Live GoGo. These two groups use music as a tool for cultural resistance and protest. In the playlist, there is a song called “Don’t Mute DC” that was released April 7th 2019 after a corner store was nearly barred from playing GoGo through a loudspeaker. This store played GoGo for the public for the past two decades and the store had every right to continue to play its music.
This attempted ban was an act of whitewashing the neighborhood and a symptom of high gentrification rates in Shaw. According to NPR, in the past three decades there was a drastic demographic change in the area, “In 1980, Shaw was 78 percent black. In 2010, the black population in the neighborhood had dropped to 44 percent.” Thankfully, the backlash and support to this ban was huge. People took to the streets with GoGo music and the movement to preserve and amplify GoGo increased dramatically. After this attempted ban, Long Live GoGo founded Moechella, a festival for GoGo with a name referring to a D.C. slang word for friend, moe. Soon after, the Million Moe March also occurred where Black community organizers demanded justice, D.C. statehood, and more resources for predominantly Black neighborhoods.
The anti-gentrification movement with GoGo last year was very successful. According to Don’t Mute D.C. funds were restored to a medical center in Ward 7 and 8, as well as highschools in the same Ward, and new legislation made GoGo the official genre of the city. Recently, GoGo continues to take up space in order to demand further justice for black Washingtonians. During the mass mobilization for Black Lives Matter in recent weeks, Moechella made a second appearance and its presence in the protests is a symbol for Black Power worldwide. Take the time to groove to the genre, learn more about its history, and participate in actions in your community that work to eradicate white supremacy. For more information on the Black Lives Matter Chapter in DC and their specific demands, take the time to read their recent statement and sign up for their newsletter. This mobilization and unity for black lives is the spirit of GoGo and it will live on forever.
Vivian grew up in the D.C. area and is currently quarantining there.