After decades of permeating the city streets, basements, clubs, and historically Black neighborhoods, the unique funk sound of go-go music was finally recognized as the official music of the nation’s capital earlier this year.
On election night, Black organizers from D.C. based organizations used go-go to inspire and uplift the community who created it during arguably the most important day of 2020. Last year, gentrifiers attempted to remove the sound go-go that glared from a Metro PCS store located in the famous U-Street corridor, an area that was once the center of “Chocolate City.” This year, thanks to organizers and activists of color, the music remains, and so does the community that gentrification has consistently tried to remove.
Hundreds of Black folks and allies gathered at Black Lives Matter Plaza in D.C., which leads to the White House, for Voter Party 2020, a special gathering in promoting resistance through arts and culture.
Well-known local go-go band, Critical Condition Band, known as CCB, led the crowd in a jam session on-stage, as community members shared their voting experiences, and inspired one other to keep going in the fight for freedom no matter the outcome of the election. A live go-go truck that drove through the energized crowd, and featured a two-hour virtual segment folks could watch from home called "Voices from the Field," where community leaders who are doing work across the country were able to join a Zoom conversation, and provide real-time election updates from their respective cities.
— DCist (@DCist) November 4, 2020
Downtown DC is bike-able Spotify tonight.
Down K Street, flatbed of musicians parked with “long live go go” banner.
Around the corner outside Lafayette, Prince & Rev’s “America” can be heard.
Another corner, it’s man + guitar. pic.twitter.com/cEveidYAST
— ChristopherVondracek (@ChrisVondracek) November 3, 2020
“There’s no movement without music, and in D.C., the music is go-go,” said LaDon Love, director of D.C. based nonprofit, SPACEs in Action (SIA). “If you look at any time in history, there’s never been a movement that did not have arts and culture, because the arts and culture tells the story of the time. It’s the best way to get people engaged and interested in the issues at hand.”
SIA focuses on three main issues: early childhood learning, health equity, and economic justice, all of which immensely impact Black women and women of color.
Over the summer, as the Black Lives Matter uprisings ensued across the country and through the streets of D.C., several social justice issue-based organizations realized that there’s significant power in collaboration and collective activism.
ShutDown DC, a direct action coalition founded in 2019 that consists of several organizations including Black Lives Matter DC, organizes to hold both local and national elected officials accountable, and supports groups like SIA and Long Live GoGo, which formed as a result of last year’s go-go controversy.
“The most powerful action this year was in June when we went all the way from U Street down to the White House,” said Patrick Young, director and co-founder of ShutDown DC. “That’s actually the day that I met LaDon from Spaces in Action. Folks from various networks had been telling us we should work together, and tried to connect us for months, but we had to actually run into each other in the streets with me driving a 24’ truck, surrounded by thousands of people with a drummer dancing on the roof of my cab.”
Less than two months later, in August, the groups got word of the dual effort of Trump and Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to jeopardize mail-in ballots. In response, ShutDown DC held an early-morning demonstration outside of Louis DeJoy’s home.
"I couldn’t imagine Long Live GoGo being excited about the Postal Service, so I didn’t initially reach out,” Young said. “Turns out, it’s true that the post office is one of the most popular institutions in America, and they were down to join us. The night before DeJoy was scheduled to explain himself before the House Oversight Committee, we showed up to play late-night go-go in front of his condo.”
Since then, the groups have worked together in solidarity, building a mass mobilization in order to defend democracy throughout the election season, leading up to election night.
BLM DC is a core member of ShutDown DC, and has, of course, had a significant role in its activism during the uprisings and fight for racial justice this year.
“It’s important for us to be there for each other during this time of uncertainty,” said NeeNee Taylor, a lead for BLM DC. “We do know that voting is only one tool to our liberation, and despite the outcome, we still will have to fight moving forward.”
“In this moment, we need to take the time to celebrate ourselves,” said Taylor. “We deserve to have joy.”