September 14: Charles Stephenson at the SEED School
On September 14, Charles Stephenson visited the DC History class of Bill Stevens at SEED public charter school. Stephenson began by giving students an overview of the history of go-go and its impact on DC, the United States, and the world. During his remarks, he showed students go-go memorabilia that he collected over the years as a fan and while serving as the original manager of Experience Unlimited (E.U.). When students asked about the skills necessary to be a manager, Stephenson responded, “Being a manager is about managing personalities.”
In preparation for the visit, students read The Beat: Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. which Stephenson co-authored with Kip Lornell. When asked about moving from New York to D.C., Stephenson explained some of the things he witnessed immediately when he arrived. “In New York at the time kids were playing basketball, when I moved to Washington, kids were carrying trumpet cases and guitar cases.” He encouraged students to take pride in the original music that was born in the city. “I don’t care what anybody says, D.C. is unique!”
Some of the other questions dealt with the reasons behind the popularity of go-go from its origins to the present and how it has changed over the years:
Student: Why do you think the Black community, in particular, enjoys go-go?
Stephenson: Because it is part of who we are. A lot of the rhythms in go-go emanate from West Africa.
Following a group picture, students approached Stephenson for his autograph and to talk about family members who played in various go-go bands. Students left feeling a sense of pride knowing that their city was the birthplace of a unique art form and the responsibility they have to make sure it continues in the next generation. SEED teacher Mr. Stevens noted,
The visit was awesome. It turned scholarly textual evidence into real-life evidence. It was great to watch them feel not only validated about their academic endeavors but about their culture and their people and who they are.