Teach the Beat!

Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom.

Teaching for Change is honored to work with D.C.  area schools and the authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. to develop lessons and share teaching ideas for infusing the history and music of go-go in middle and high school social studies, language arts, math, music, and/or D.C. history classes, and to bring renowned go-go performers into D.C. classrooms.

"Go-go has stayed true to time-honored cultural scripts such as live call-and-response, live instrumentation, as well as its locally rooted fashions, slang, dance, distribution and economic systems. Simply put: Go-Go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music that gives voice to the communities where it was created." –Natalie Hopkinson



Charles C. Stephenson, Jr.

After growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1968, as co-founder of Black Liberty Thru Black Unity he worked with various cultural groups as a mechanism to draw support for community concerns. In 1970, he moved to Washington, D.C. and continued his community work, which led him to found and manage The Experience Unlimited Band (EU).

For over twenty-five years, he has been identified with the evolution of Go-Go music in Washington, D.C. As the manager of EU he witnessed the ascent of Go-Go music. As a producer and manager, he interacted with all the popular Go-Go acts in Washington, D.C., which included Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and the Junkyard Band. He emerged as a respected advocate and promoter of Go-Go music in a time when various political leaders were critical of the music and the “element” associated with the genre. He would like to believe that his continued involvement with Go-Go has finally resulted in respect and recognition by the city of Washington, D.C. for the music.

In July 2001, Billboard Books released his first book, The Beat: Go-Go’s Fusion of Funk and Hip Hop. The book, which was co-authored by Kip Lornell, is the only book available that explores the history and popularity of this often ignored music style.

In 1971, he co-founded the Malcolm X Day Celebration in Washington, D.C. This event has been recognized nationally for being the longest (25 years) and largest to celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz), the slain human rights leader. This was a unique event to honor Malcolm X because it featured cultural groups such as Experience Unlimited and other go-go bands as an attraction to interest young people. This merger was a success because it allowed organizers of the event to attract people especially youth, who would not ordinarily participate in political activities.

He is married to his dear wife, Judith A. Burrell and has two children Brandon N. Stephenson and Zora A. B. Stephenson. He graduated cum laude from American University with a bachelor’s degree.


Kip Lornell

Professor Lornell teaches courses in American music (some of which are cross-listed with American Studies) as well as ethnomusicology. In addition to teaching music courses, Dr. Lornell also serves on the Africana Studies Program Committee. Prior to teaching at GWU in 1991, Prof. Lornell taught at the University of Virginia and the College of William & Mary, and in 1995-96 he was a visiting professor at The Johns Hopkins University (Peabody Conservatory).

His research in American vernacular music has resulted in the publication of 103  articles, essays, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and record notes, some 27 record projects, several documentary films, and 14 books--- most recently in collaboration with Bruce Bastin, The Melody Man: Joe Davis and the New York Music Scene, 1916-1978 (University Press of Mississippi 2012).  Dr. Lornell's research has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropology, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among others.

From 1988-90 he was a post-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Institution, working with Tony Seeger at Smithsonian/Folkways. Prof. Lornell was recognized as the “Outstanding Young Alumni” in 1989 by the University of Memphis. Other awards include the 1993 ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (co-authored with Charles Wolfe) a 1997 Grammy for co-authoring the notes that accompanied the Anthology of American Folk Music (Smithsonian/Folkways).

An avid volleyball player (and college official) and long-time collector of 78 rpm records, Lornell lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, with his wife, Kim Gandy, and their two children, Elizabeth Cady Lornell and Katherine Eleanor Gandy.


Thomas Sayers Ellis

Thomas Sayers Ellis is a poet, photographer, and Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, New York and a core faculty member of the Lesley University Low Residency MFA Program in Cambridge, MA. He previously taught as an associate professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.

His first full-length collection,The Maverick Room, was published by Graywolf Press and won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award from Ploughshares. "The book takes as its subject the social, geographical and historical neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., bringing different tones of voice to bear on the various quadrants of the city." He is also the author of a chapbook The Genuine Negro Hero (Kent State University Press, 2001) and the chaplet Song On (Wintered Press 2005).

Ellis was born and raised in Washington, D.C.and attended Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. In 1988 he co-founded The Dark Room Collective, an organization that celebrated and gave greater visibility to emerging and established writers of color (Cambridge, Massachusetts). Ellis received his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.F.A. from Brown University in 1995.

Ellis is known in the poetry community as a literary activist and innovator, one whose poems, "resist limitations and rigorously embrace wholeness." His poems have appeared in magazines such as AGNI, Callaloo, Grand Street, Harvard Review, Tin House, Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art, and anthologized in The Best American Poetry (1997 and 2001) and in Take Three: AGNI New Poets Series (Graywolf Press, 1996), an anthology series featuring the work of three emerging poets in each volume. He has received fellowships and grants from The Fine Arts Work Center, the Ohio Arts Council, the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, Yaddo, and The MacDowell Colony.

Thomas Sayers Ellis is a contributing editor to Callaloo and a consulting editor to A Public Space. He compiled and edited Quotes Community: Notes for Black Poets (University of Michigan Press, Poets on Poetry Series).

Photography credit: Rachel Eliza Griffiths, 2010

Copyright  2013 The Beat. All Rights Reserved.

Website developed by Teaching for Change with support from
the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Image credits: Thomas Sayers Ellis