Residents Rejoice: Go-Go Music Returns to Shaw's Metro PCS

April 10, 2019

Photo By Scott Gelman


By Scott Gelman

Midday Wednesday, a go-go dance party evolved at the Metro PCS in the District’s Shaw neighborhood.

A 9-month-old baby bounced on his mother’s shoulders wearing a shirt that said “Go-Go Made Me!” A man driving a Tenleytown Trash truck honked and threw his fist into the air as he drove by the intersection. Drivers stopped at the red light shouted their own variations of “don’t let them take it away!”

Go-Go tunes returned to the storefront about 12:30 p.m., blaring from the speakers that were removed in accordance with T-Mobile’s request days earlier. By Wednesday, the company, which owns the Metro PCS, backtracked.

“The music will go on,” T-Mobile CEO John Legere said on Twitter.

But politicians, residents and local religious leaders congregated on the corner of 7th Street and Florida Ave. to share the same message: The music never should have stopped, and D.C. residents have a responsibility to defend the city’s traditions against the rising threat of gentrification.

“Today we unmute the city!” Councilmember Robert White said. “When D.C. residents feel threatened, they step up.”

[Related: TOB Will Perform to Show Support for Silenced Metro PCS store>

The Metro PCS has stood on the corner for more than 25 years but has only had noise complaints in the last five, said D.C. activist Ron Moten. The latest came from The Shay, a luxury apartment complex across the street.

Moten said the person who complained about a month ago first called city officials, who in numerous visits to the storefront said the store didn’t violate any noise ordinances. But when T-Mobile learned of the complaint, it asked owner Donald Campbell to stop playing the music outside.

D.C. locals responded in a big way, expressing their frustration on social media. A Howard university student, who Moten said doesn’t like go-go music, helped the hashtag #DontMuteDC trend on Twitter.

Several local bands performed on the corner to support the store, and Councilmember Brianne Nadeau sent a letter to T-Mobile urging it to reconsider its request. As of Tuesday night, T-Mobile was silent.

[Related: Go-Go Will No Longer Bump Out of Shaw Metro PCS>

But by Wednesday, Campbell watched as visitors took photos with an Instagram frame and wore “I heart go-go music” stickers, proud of the return to normalcy.

“Several black businesses are being attacked by [gentrification>,” Moten said. “Go-Go music was the life of U Street before anyone wanted to be on U Street.”

The store’s go-go music has become such a part of the community that locals felt personally attacked when Campbell was asked to stop playing it. A town hall scheduled for Thursday is intended to further the discussion on protecting the city as neighborhoods change.

“It’s the heartbeat of D.C.,” said Lovenda Burnett, who used to live in the District before moving to Maryland. “It belongs to our city.”

A woman named Nee Nee, who identified herself as a leader with Black Lives Matter D.C., said “go-go isn’t noise. It’s our heritage.”

Surveying the crowd, community activist Tony Lewis Jr. couldn’t help but smile.

“It’s another victory for us when we come together and speak out about something that’s just wrong,” Lewis Jr. said.

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