“Go-Go is a genre of music founded in DC that deserves its history to be taught in school just as classical and jazz music are,” remarks Cherie “Sweet Cherie” Mitchell-Agurs, a product of the Duke Ellington School of the Performing Arts who has gone on to play with legends such as Lena Horne, George Duke, Patti LaBelle, Nile Rodgers and Chic as well as Sir Elton John, to name just a few.
Mitchell-Agurs, who splits her time between performing with Chuck Brown and Bel’a Dona, the band in which she co-founded, will be one of the participants in the Go-Go Under the Stars fundraising concert that will be held Sunday, July 31, 2011 from 7pm – 11pm at the Anacostia Gallery located at 2806 Bruce Place, SE, Washington, DC 20020.This historic concert is being sponsored by the Anacostia Gallery and Go Go Is The Beat website in an effort to raise the funds to TEACH THE BEAT throughout schools across the DC Metropolitan area. The goal is to develop a high school curriculum including lesson plans in history, art, social studies and math incorporating Go-Go music using the book, “The Beat! Go Go Music From Washington, DC”, as a resource.
The book, The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, DC, was written by Charles Stephenson and Kip Lornell in an effort to preserve the history of the music and culture that was founded in DC in the late 1970’s by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, the Young Senators and has earned beloved icon Chuck Brown the undisputed title of the “Godfather of Go-Go”. Go-Go itself has been credited as the heartbeat of black culture in Washington, DC for the past three decades and spans just as many generations.
“This is DC based. This is a subject we know DC students would be interested in. It will teach the students how to go back and trace how music has evolved and the social challenges that developed as the music moved forward”, Stephenson explains and continues “The book deals with history and is an excellent vehicle to teach social studies. It talks about Social movements and why it emerged in Washington when DC was segregated. It came from social events that took place in churches and cabaret halls. I believe using The Beat in DC area schools will allow teachers the opportunity to teach history and social studies with a contemporary subject that is of great interest to students. Studying Go-Go music is an excellent way to hold the attention of today’s students.”
Lornell, a professor at George Washington University’s Department of Music adds, “Go-Go music is rich with historical and social context about how music evolves in this country.”
Thomas Sayers Ellis, a graduate of the Dunbar High School class of 1982 who has gone on to receive an M.F.A. from Brown University and now teaches as a Professor of Writing at the Sarah Lawrence College, played with the Go-Go Bands Petworth Band and Heavy Connection. An award winning poet, Ellis theorizes, “the teachers who teach The Beat must be genuine in their interest in Go-Go; and not view it as an inferior sub genre of musical subject-verb disagreement! They must understand that the Pocket contains a very high form and very old form of poly conversational behavior, one that is in fact superior to written English. The pocket is pictorial, percussive and layered with the knowing of nuance not exactness like prose. Good curriculums make good citizens and the pocket can be a place where young minds bust loose.”
Donnell Floyd, a mainstay on the Go-Go scene for years as both a businessman and a performer playing with Rare Essence, Chuck Brown, 911 and Familiar Faces, elaborates, “ I think this and things like this that help make today’s world relevant to a kid who has problems staying focused, will be great!”
Mitchell-Agurs suggests, “Learning the history of Go-Go would also allow the kids to respect the music much better than some of the adults that play in Go-Go bands today. The more variety that kids are exposed to, the more choices they would have in their career paths. I never thought I would play for Go-Go Bands. Icons like Sugar Bear, Rare Essence, Trouble Funk, and Chuck Brown were celebrities to me. During my elementary years, the Side by Side Police Band used to perform Go-Go concerts at our school and I was in awe. I knew I wanted to play music. Imagine how many other kids could be inspired and influenced”.
The show Sunday evening will feature performances by some of Go-Go’s All Stars and Legends including Donnell Floyd (Chuck Brown), Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliott (E.U.), Roy Battle (RE), Blue Eye Darrell (RE), Sweet Cherie (Be’la Dona and Chuck Brown), Go Go Mickey Freeman (RE), Tino Jackson (E.U.), Gem In I and Maisha Rashad (Hip Huggers).
Advanced tickets to the show are $20 and $25 at the door. If you cannot attend this show, but would like to contribute to teaching the true history of Go-Go in the high schools, you can make a tax deductable donation at www.teachingforchange.org/thebeat-donationor send a check or money order to Teaching for Change/The Beat, The Beat c/o Teaching for Change, P.O. Box 73038, Washington, DC 20056.
All of the monies raised, including the proceeds from the 7 pm Sunday, July 31 GO GO STARS & LEGENDS concert at the Anacostia Gallery, will be deposited in a non-profit 501 (c) (3) account at Teaching for Change (http://www.teachingforchange.org/thebeat-donation). Teaching for Change is the non-profit organization that has partnered with the authors of “The Beat! Go Go Music From Washington, DC”, to take the lead in working with teachers to complete the lesson plans and field test them in local schools.
“Kids love to have fun. There should be a way to make school fun. If kids can learn a Jay Z rap verbatim, then how come it’s so difficult to read Julius Caesar? I can’t say that a Go-Go curriculum will keep a child in school, that’s up to them and their parents, but I will say, it would give them something positive and exciting to look forward to,” adds Mitchell-Agurs.