As Long as There is Memory, There Will be Chuck

By Thomas Sayers Ellis

I grew up on 7th and O Streets, NW
so the sight of people dancing in the rain, on 7th and T Streets, NW,
while Chuck Brown, the Godfather of Go-Go,
was having a part of a street named
after him was amazing.
A part of a street is a Way,
a way in, a way out, opportunity.
The man who made a way now has a Way,
Chuck Brown Way,
a green sign, with his name on it,
in one of our city’s most historic districts.
This is Go-Go’s city. We go on, don’t sleep on us, roll with it.
Our referencing and our children are percussive,
bouncing like the rototoms they have redefined
and we no longer understand.
And even when we move to save them by moving to the suburbs the bridges we once took it continue to reach us.
The scene, Saturday, on 7th and T, was like something out
of the film “When We Were Kings,” like the day
after Ali beat Foreman and the monsoon came
and all of Zaire danced in the streets
and everyone was equal: beggar, politician, thief, sellout, junkie,
journalist, groupie, photographer, Marion-former mayor-still-mayor-to-some-Barry, pastor, hustler, etc.
On Saturday da real folks put aside their masks
and paid honor, real honor and love,
to a complex, romantic, tough, generous
ex-con, ex-boxer, ex-hobo and family man.
The Godfather is a shrewd Business man too.
Go-Go is the most complex-simple thing in the world; it’s worse than old love, triflin’ and terrific.
Everyone from DC contains a piece of Go-Go, whether they want to or not,
and everyone from DC can relate to Chuck, want to or not.
It’s not as difficult as explaining to people why we re-elected Marion Barry but it’s damn close.
It’s a Dee Cee thang; f u c k Washington; it’s rules.
That’s how memory works: Chuck went national and DC punished him, punished him,
(us youngins) with Rare Essence, that’s how it works.
Go national and see what happens. We won’t let you go and we won’t let you come back, even if you beg, not fully.
We did the same thing to Trouble Funk and to EU
and maybe they deserved it. Drop the Bomb or Da Butt, you decide.
Give me “Go-Go Swing” any day, G.
but that’s want youngins do. We break up and we move on
then we turn 30 and we look back and be like D A M N.
I want you back.
There is a part of Dee Cee that has always wanted the Soul Searchers back
and that Dee Cee came out to watch Chuck dance, band-less, to the sound of his music and our memories,
to hear the stories he likes to tell (shining shoes, sneaking in the back doors of clubs), his rhymes about his age.
That Dee Cee did not come out to hear the local politicians
or the Dee Jay from NYC who hosted the event and that Dee Cee let
him and them know, and that Dee Cee was hauled off by the cops
slipping in the ran.
Wise of Fenty not to be there. There are many Dee Cees and this one ain’t his.
I don’t know where the other Dee Cee was, the Go-Go Community, probably on facebook, probably making that good summer Go-Go money that Chuck helped to set up years ago, probably just forgot.
This is how memory works (we forget)
and this is what i am hoping that Chuck will not remember.
Understand that Chuck has been recast, in recent years, as a Go-Go Mafioso
always in Love and always at War.
Don’t cross him.
His “Love theme from The Godfather” more than proves that.
We love Chuck but there are parts of Go-Go secretly at war with him, with his style; it happens. It’s healthy.

But there was barely a member from the active Go-Go Community on the stage
or on the street for this once in a lifetime event.
Barely a one, to my eyes, and I was wearing new glasses so i might have missed the stars,
the so-called pioneers,
promoters, club owners, bootleggers, babies made to “Bustin’ Loose,” writers, etc.
I was carrying cameras so I might have missed us but if I did,
i surely felt the lack of us. If I were really bold, I bust a Roll Call right here of the folks I did not see.
Where was we?
I think I saw, in the crowd, a Peaceoholic
and i know I saw E of OP tribe
(because he asked me to make sure I got a photo of him and Chuck).
That cat Teago was on the scene. Vincent Swan and the sound Crew
And John who manages Bela Dona but that was it.
What up y’all, a little rain got in the way of respect or do we got a problem with the Good Godfather
or is our problem with Home, Dee Cee
or are we lazy again. i know: no one’s listening.
“Something ain’t right,
stinks like dynamite,
gonna blow you up and it just might.”
(Chuck D)
If Go-Go is our home, on Saturday we f u c k e d up the crib, Son.
Chuck made us. We didn’t make him. We owe,
want to or not.
How many n i g g a s you know get their own Way while they are still alive.
Our way, i know, is not ONE even though WE ARE ONE, I know.
Gotta pay some people to show up.
I know.

The weight of this day, his day, did not go unnoticed by him
because as it rained, he cried
in front of everyone, onstage, and I could barely take the picture
but I did.
Through his tears
those who were there
and those who were not.
He could feel it, the balance. Chuck sensitive, genuine, quick.
Chuck will love you in a minute and fire you in a second.

Make bridges, take it to the bridge, let’s never burn the bridges he worked so hard to build.
I didn’t see any former Soul Searchers
there either.
Time for a reunion.

Hopefully new glasses will mean better pictures.
Memory is farsighted.


Photo by TSE, 2007

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