D.C. Fights Back Against Colonizers Who Want to Ban Go-Go Music From an Iconic City Corner

The band Rare Essence performs as Washington D.C. residents enjoy the 60th birthday block party for area landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl Aug. 22, 2018, in Washington, DC. Ben’s Chili Bowl was opened in 1958 ... or was it 1498?
The band Rare Essence performs as Washington D.C. residents enjoy the 60th birthday block party for area landmark Ben’s Chili Bowl Aug. 22, 2018, in Washington, DC. Ben’s Chili Bowl was opened in 1958 ... or was it 1498?
Photo: Win McNamee (Getty Images)

Back in 1498, a few years after Christopher Columbus pillaged the Caribbean and before he set sail to Trinidad, Columbus landed in the District of Columbia. He asked where he could get a good half-smoke, and the people told him to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U Street. There Columbus and his crew dined on foodstuffs drenched in chili, and somewhere off in the distance Columbus heard a melodic, thumping sound that he couldn’t register. He asked someone working at Ben’s about the noise and why it had to be so loud.


And thus begins the story of colonization and complaining.

First, the colonizers arrive seeking the culture and resources (i.e., space, “cheap” rent, great food) they so desperately lack, then they seek to destroy said culture, which predated them.

This is a story about a utopian village unbothered by those around it until ships began pulling into port. This is story about white people being on their white people shit.

This is about the Metro PCS on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Ave in N.W. D.C., arguably once the blackest corners in America, and the white people that have moved in only to complain about how the indigenous people before them behave.

This is the story of how the soul of a city gets lost.

For 24 years, Donald Campbell has been playing go-go music from his Metro PCS storefront in the Shaw neighborhood, according to the DCist. Now, the colonizers have started to complain. They spoke to Campbell’s manager, T-mobile, which purchased Metro PCS and told him that his go-go music, an audio history of a Chocolate City that only exists in memory had to stop. Immediately. The colonizer didn’t want to hear all that noise while trying to decipher the hidden Egyptian symbolism inside mumbo-sauce.


“They said, ‘get rid of the music.’ It came from up top that we had to get rid of it,” Campbell told the DCist.

Campbell noted that he still plays the music, but not as loud as he used to and inside. Before the music filled the streets, now the music barely fills the store.


“Generations of Howard students, generations of people know that I play music every single day,” Campbell told the DCist. While the bulk of Campbell’s business is cellphone-related, he also sells go-go music.

“We started selling [go-go] tapes, now we’re selling CDs,” the former club owner said. “I always liked the go-go bands, I always tried to keep the music alive.”


But that isn’t how colonization works. Its purpose is to extract the parts of you beneficial for tea party conversations and tear out the heart. I believe the biblical term is “Kardashianing”—that’s where you take the butt, the thighs, the hips, the hairstyles, the nails, the mannerisms and the attitude, of black women and discard the rest.

And so it goes.

Campbell claims that the complaints are coming from The Shay, a mixed-use luxury building whose rents can’t house anyone that would need a Metro PCS phone.


“There have been complaints about the music being extremely loud, but it’s not just The Shay,” a person who answered the phone at The Shay’s office and declined to give their name told the DCist. “It’s people who live all over or are visiting the area. It’s not The Shay that has the issue.”

But old D.C.’s still got some fight left. On Monday, the hashtag #DontMuteDC was trending.


D.C. council member’s even got involved:


People even went to the area to point out that others were playing their music just as loud:


And then, because I love my people, someone set up loudspeakers to blast go-go music into The Shay, as several gathered to celebrate and protest:


Since 1995, Donald Campbell has played the rhythm of D.C. — its homegrown music with a direct connection to Africa, the enslaved, the migrants, the natives—and no one saw fit to stop the rhythmic drumbeat pouring from his store in the all-black Shaw neighborhood. Now that the city has been colonized, the music is “too loud” but the half smokes are just right, and now, over tea, one can look to the other and ask if they’ve ever been to Ben’s on U Street without having to hear the music that once told the history of the people who literally built that very place.

Senior Editor @ The Root, boxes outside my weight class, when they go low, you go lower.


Asking A Birdman not to soar

oooohhh out of all the bullshit gentricubes bring to a neighborhood “whining about loud music” is probably a top 3. The sticks that your parents white-flighted to are still there, assholes, and still filled with the silence you crave. Don’t move to a city then complain about city sounds.