Thousands of locals jammed out to go-go music in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, as part of an exuberant protest concert against the encroaching gentrification in the area.
For hours, the crowds closed down the intersection of 14th and U Street NW, a former hub of black life in the city, and now home to glossy apartment buildings and a SoulCycle, an upscale spinning studio. They danced along to performances by local groups ABM and Backyard Band and belted out the lyrics to the latter’s percussion-filled go-go cover of Adele’s “Hello.”
Go-go music was born in Washington, D.C., in the 1970’s. It has become a rallying point for locals since a noise dispute sparked a national conversation about the changing demographics in the most aggressively gentrifying city in the U.S. In April, a local MetroPCS cell phone store in Shaw that had played go-go music from its storefront for more than two decades was ordered to stop after a resident from a neighboring luxury apartment building complained.
Supporters quickly rallied around the store and launched the hashtag #DontMuteDC. A first protest concert was organized on April 9 at the corner of 14th and U Street, headlined by the go-go band TOB. The community response prompted the CEO of MetroPCS’ parent company T-Mobile, John Legere, to tweet that the music would continue to play and that the store would work with neighbors to find a compromise.
Tuesday’s rally was the third protest concert (a second one was held in mid-April with the bands New Impressionz and TCB), and organizers called it “Moechella,” in reference to the Coachella music festival and “moe,” a local term for friend.
As the #DontMuteDC movement grows, organizers want to harness the community’s support to effect real change in the fight against gentrification. Ronald Moten, a local activist who launched a petition to keep the go-go music playing at Metro PCS, said rapidly rising prices were pushing out many residents out of the city.
It was joyful to see people come together for a cause and fight back, but the energy has to be channeled into action and education. People have to be empowered to make change in D.C.This story was written by Jenny Che (@jsyche).
With gentrification, we’re getting wiped out. Restaurants, carry-out stores, clothing stores and nonprofits throughout D.C. that were in neighborhoods when nobody wanted to be there now can’t afford rents. Property taxes go up, and it’s not easy to buy buildings. Gentrification is coming to Ward 7 and 8, which are mostly populated by African-American communities that live below the poverty line, but they’re prime real estate. Anxiety has really kicked in.
It’s about giving everybody a fair chance. If you don’t have ownership in the city, you’re going to get pushed out. We want to connect with people who might not have the resources to stay in the city, and to keep them here. Change isn’t the problem. The problem is not being included in the change.
At the last rally we were registering people to vote. We’re organizing strategic plans, we want legislation to minimize gentrification and displacement. We’re working on ways that communities can be empowered.