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Go-Go Museum Sets Out to Preserve D.C.’s Sound, Culture

Members of the group coordinating and raising funds for the launch of a go-go museum in Southeast said instruments, photos, artwork, clothes and other artifacts representing the District’s unique music and culture should be on display at Check It Enterprises on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue by the late spring.

One upcoming exhibit, an interactive map pinpointing former go-go venues in the D.C. area, cites research conducted by go-go historian and Don’t Mute DC affiliate Dr. Natalie Hopkinson.

Over several months, Hopkinson and a graduate student searched the Globe Poster collection at the Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries for bold-lettered, vibrantly colored artifacts that highlighted the prominent go-go bands and spots of the late 1980s.

“There were so many things on the posters, [like] hotlines to find out about the go-gos, the legendary photographers that would be at the go-gos, the big butt contests and different dances and fashions that we would like to bring to life,” Hopkinson said.

Hopkinson’s soon-to-be-published study designates the Black Hole in Northwest, Cherry’s in Southeast near where Nationals Park stand, and Evan’s Grille in Forestville, Maryland, as some of the top go-go venues advertised in 1987 and 1988. Those spots, and many others mentioned in the study, have since shuttered, as has Globe Poster Printing Corporation, which had become a resource for African-American event planners in the D.C.-Baltimore region by the mid-20th century.

More About the Museum and Differing Views

As the D.C. Council inches closer to making good on its promise to make go-go the official music of the District, Hopkinson said she looks to Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA) as an indication of the vigor needed to preserve go-go history and culture. In 2010, after Globe Poster Printing Corporation closed, MICA acquired nearly 75 percent of its assets, including wood type and illustration cuts.

Today, those artifacts serve as research tools for artists and art students.

“It’s important for the city to make that investment,” said Hopkinson, author of “Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City.” “MICA and Globe Poster are a great model [given] what we want the city to do with D.C.’s music.”

Go-go museum consultants include Hopkinson, Ron Moten, Frank “Scooby” Sirius, Charles Stephenson and legendary drummer Ju Ju. Once open, the museum, housed within Check-It Enterprises, will also include a cafe, outdoor performance space and a commercial kitchen specifically designed for workforce development opportunities. The District’s Great Streets grant provided $50,000 for the museum and Check-It Enterprises recently launched a GoFundMe that raised $25,000. DJ Flexx of WPGC 95.5 FM has reportedly been scheduled to lend airtime to the cause during early February.

“If we’re serious about gentrification, we need to act like it,” Moten said. “This can be a place where people eat and young people get jobs in hospitality, tourism, engineering. Most people who start off in go-go end up doing a lot more. It helps bring people together.”

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