News & Politics

FIRST LOOK: DC’s New Go-Go Museum

It’s opening in February in Anacostia.

A rendering of the outdoor area. Rendering of Go-Go Museum by To Be Done Studio.

In the works for a decade, DC’s go-go museum finally has an opening date: February 19, 2024. We recently got a tour of the under-­construction space, located on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia, and while there was still a long way to go, the museum was definitely taking shape. The much-­anticipated project—called the Go-Go Museum and Cafe—is the brainchild of veteran community advocate and go-go promoter Ronald Moten. Jump-started in part by a $50,000 city grant, the museum is also being funded by private donations.

At a little more than 3,000 square feet, the museum won’t have room for extensive displays of large artifacts, but it should still offer plenty of significant history. “Because we don’t have a lot of space, we are going to tell stories on the walls and on the floor,” Moten says. That means an emphasis on digital and interactive exhibitions to guide visitors through go-go’s roots, pivotal moments, best songs, landmark music venues, and community impact. There will be an exhibit tracing the genre back to its West African ancestry, a look at connections between hip-hop and go-go, and other offerings. Moten also hopes to raise money for tech-based installations such as a touchscreen go-go family tree. And you’ll find evocative objects like vinyl albums, vintage Globe posters, and even a counter made out of drumsticks.

Go-go’s history will also be woven into the cafe’s offerings. The food will be a blend of African, Caribbean, Latin, and mumbo-sauced dishes, all of it meant to echo the way Godfather of Go-Go Chuck Brown used elements of jazz, funk, and salsa to create the head-bobbing beat that “goes and goes.” Additionally, the building includes an event space (where you’ll be able to hear go-go bands, naturally), indoor and out­door eating areas, and a basement recording studio. Even the opening date is go-go-centric: It’s the four-year anniversary of when Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the law making go-go the official music of DC.

Meanwhile, Moten is also debuting his new mobile museum, a 29-foot bus that’s scheduled to make its first appearance at the World Culture Festival on the National Mall in September. The traveling attraction—outfitted with both a roof-top performance stage and interior digital exhibitions—aims to share the music’s history at schools, private corporate events, and various local happenings.

“My goal is to use music and culture to educate people on why it’s so important to have diversity,” says Moten, “but also preserve the history and culture that made DC the Chocolate City.”

This article appears in the August 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.