Some residents in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, DC want to turn off the funk at a historically Black corner, but support for the sound has swelled in recent days.
According to DCist.com, Donald Campbell has been playing go-go music from a Metro PCS storefront at the intersection of 7th Street and Florida NW since 1995. Phone carrier T-Mobile — which now owns Metro PCS — contacted Campbell nearly a month ago to shut down the speakers.
“They said, ‘get rid of the music,’” he told DCist. “It came from up top that we had to get rid of it.”
Go-go is a musical subgenre tied to funk and hip-hop which has roots in the Washington, DC area. Originating in the mid ‘60s, go-go is the city’s “indigenous sound” that has long served as a meeting ground for DC’s Black community.
Campbell added that a nearby resident threatened T-Mobile with a lawsuit over the loud music. But as soon as Campbell silenced the speakers about two weeks ago, people began to ask what was going on. “Generations of Howard students, generations of people know that I play music every single day,” Campbell said, adding that his phone store also sells go-go CDs and offers phone repairs. “I always liked the go-go bands, I always tried to keep the music alive.”
ABC 7’s Anna-Lysa Gayle shared an exchange between Ronald Moten, an activist and go-go promoter, and a white resident who wanted the go-go music to be played at a lower volume. In the video, Moten said that gentrifiers coming into the neighborhood are trying to eliminate the culture, which the white resident denied.
As Moten noted that no laws or noise ordinances had been broken, the white resident said, “many things are not illegal, but they’re disrespectful.”
Moten started a petition on Change.org, stressing that neighbors in the newly constructed condos across the street “pressured the city and then T-Mobile, to force the owners to stop playing the music.”
“Tell T-mobile, the city, and residents who don’t understand the cultural significance and history of go-go music in Washington, DC that this is unacceptable. Bring back the music!” Moten wrote in the petition, which received 62,554 signatures ahead of its 75,000 goal at the time of this writing.
Meanwhile, the store has received the support of social media users with the hashtag #DontMuteDC. Videos have circulated showing hundreds of people shutting down 14th and U streets, where bands played live music.
“So ‘they’ said that WE were making too much noise outside with OUR music so we decided to remind them WE were here 1st. Good luck getting some sleep tonight on U st,” a Twitter user wrote on Tuesday evening.
Prominent DC figures such as Mayor Muriel Bowser have also expressed support for Moten’s petition, requesting that T-Mobile bring the music back.
Their efforts worked. T-Mobile President John Legere tweeted on Wednesday that the Metro PCS store is now allowed to play music back on the street. “I’ve looked into this issue myself and the music should NOT stop in D.C.! @TMobile and @MetroByTMobile are proud to be part of the Shaw community — the music will go on and our dealer will work with the neighbors to compromise volume,” he wrote.
About the Author
Robert Valencia is the breaking news editor for The North Star. His work as editor and reporter appeared on Newsweek, World Politics Review, Mic.com, Public Radio International and The Miami Herald, among other outlets. He’s a frequent commentator on foreign affairs and US politics on Al Jazeera English, CNN en Español, Univision, Telemundo, Voice of America, C-SPAN, Sirius XM and other media outlets across Latin America and the Caribbean.