Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts.These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Foreign Correspondent -

View in ParlView

The pic-ops and the press-briefings. The rapid-fire West Wing dialogue. Hand-shakes and moment in
the Rose Garden. Soaring marble memorials and imposing public buildings. They're familiar snapshots
that help form an abiding impression of Washington as the definitive seat of power, authority and
privilege.

But not far beyond the White House and the Capitol building and the Stars and Stripes flapping in
the breeze lies a very confronting place. The real Washington DC - and it's anything but privileged
and powerful.

It is predominantly black, burdened by deprivation, crushed by crime and drugs and feels utterly
abandoned by political leadership.

You won't hear too many refrains of America the Beautiful here. You might hear gun-fire and
arguments. But you'll certainly hear Go-Go. It's an unmistakable beat thumping away in the corners
and spaces of the badlands that's lifting hearts and rousing spirits.

"You can't even come in this city and not want to hear it because its talked about so much.

It's a part of this city. We breathe it. We bleed it. It's a part of us."

CHI ALI GO-GO BAND LEADER

Just as the blues emerged from the African-American experience in the Mississippi delta, soul and
Motown scored a new assertiveness in the 60's and hip-hop and rap marked the anger and frustration
of more recent times, Go-Go is the unique and authentic sound of the national capital.

"You know they call DC the chocolate city and go-go is the soundtrack of the chocolate city.

It's the heartbeat of the city, it is the fabric of the culture of the people who live here."

NATALIE HOPKINSON AUTHOR

But Go-Go has a menacing side. It's become allied with violence, drugs and criminality and is being
forced further and further underground as authorities crack-down on the Go Go community.

North America Correspondent Michael Brissenden ventures where very few outsiders dare to tread to
examine the dynamics of this raucous and riotous music movement that in many ways has become the
unofficial sound-track for African Americans waiting and hoping for a Black President to deliver on
his promise of change.

Brissenden spends time deep inside the Go Go world and elsewhere meets with a black giant in this
community - former mayor Marion Barry - infamous for his starring role in a FBI drugs sting in the
80s but worshipped by locals as the man who galvanised, organised and inspired them 20 years before
Barack Obama. Barry personifies the flaws and failures of his community but also has an enduring
hope for beneficial change.

BRISSENDEN: Music defines place in America, and black music also defines times and circumstance,
all the way from the Mississippi Delta through the violent streets of East Los Angeles and on to
the big time - [background song about New York] - and while you might have heard some of that,
chances are you haven't heard this [playing of Go Go song].

You're listening to an obscure artist called "Little Benny" playing an obscure brand of music - Go
Go. A big sound that plays in a confined space - the black neighbourhoods of Washington DC.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: [Author] They call DC "Chocolate City" and Go Go is the sound track of the
Chocolate City. It's the heartbeat of the city. It is the fabric of the culture of people who live
here. Different political administrations might come and go, but for the folks who stay here and
who live here year after year, generation after generation, Go Go is part of their identity. It's
the musical expression of their identity.

BRISSENDEN: For outsiders, Go Go may not sound very distinctive at all. It's difficult to pick the
difference between it and a cacophony of other contemporary black music, but there are differences
and even the tin-eared among Washington African-American community hear them.

CHI ALI: [Go Go star] You can't even come in this city and not want to hear it because it's talked
about so much. It's a part of this city. We breathe it. We bleed it. It's a part of us.

BRISSENDEN: In Chi Ali's Go Go band the basic ingredients are a line of conga drums and grim
experiences to feed the stories in the lyrics.

CHI ALI: This was just a bad neighbourhood to live in. Those times in the 80s to now, it really
damaged us as a people and our community and for me as an outlet, I use the music. As far as
crack-cocaine, I used to sell anywhere from eight to a K out here a day and this building right
here, I used to sell hand to hand. No bags. I used to break it off the block.

BRISSENDEN: Like many in the Go Go scene and those who follow it, Chi Ali grew up in and
participated in a drug addled, crime ridden world just a bus ride from the White House.

CHI ALI: I've seen so much death around here that death doesn't faze me. We used to hear gunshots
and walk out and see bodies smoking on the ground, steaming from the bullets. We used to see people
get their head shot off so I mean I went through that, the youth that's coming up now they went
through that because the stage is becoming worse and it was very violent out here, very.

BRISSENDEN: This, of course, is the Washington most of the world recognises, a city of monuments
and symbols of political power. For the first time there's a black man at the centre of it, but in
the neighbourhoods not far from here, on the other side of power, the change they've been craving
still hasn't come.

The fact is the black side of the capital is a part of Washington most white residents rarely
experience from outside their cars. It's poor, it's urban and at times it's extremely violent. For
decades the driving percussion of Go Go has provided the backbeat in this tough environment but
some believe Go Go is part of the problem.

MARION BARRY: [Former Mayor, Washington DC] America is a violent country. We were founded on
violence, and so violence permeates the psyche and those who are most moved by it happen to be low
income people.

NEWS REPORT: [30 March 2010] Hundreds gathered Wednesday night for a tear-filled vigil on the very
spot 24 hours earlier where four young people were killed and five others wounded in a hail of
gunfire during a drive-by shooting.

BRISSENDEN: Turf wars like this are a common occurrence in a community awash with guns and drugs.
Often the gang violence ricochets off the streets and into the clubs and vice versa.

MARION BARRY: We've had to close down nightclubs because they've got too violent - outside mostly,
because people had beefs inside.

BRISSENDEN: Before Barack Obama came to town, this was the black man who galvanised, mobilised and
inspired his community, the deeply flawed and controversial former mayor, Marion Barry.

MARION BARRY: You cannot allow violence to take over. Right down in southwest two people were
killed outside of the club. The club wasn't responsible for that but who do you hold responsible?
It happened. The altercation started inside and so the government in Prince George's country right
next to us, the government in DC has been forced by the political pressure and the pressure of the
people to close it down. I don't agree with that, but that's where we are.

CHI ALI: I think we all have a common problem and instead of the politicians blaming music or the
music blaming the politicians, I think that we should join forces and use this music as a tool to
curb the violence in the city.

BRISSENDEN: But violence and Go Go dance hand in hand. At the clubs we went to during our
assignment, there was a heavy police presence. It didn't do much to dampen the enthusiasm for the
music but the authentic soundtrack of the real Washington is finding it more and more difficult to
find a home. It's being forced further and further away from the heart of town.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: It actually makes my head spin how quickly it's happening. It's pushing out Go
Go from the heart of where it began. It's almost as if Go Go, which had done so much to bring life
to these places, is.... their services are no longer needed and they just getting pushed out.
They're people who are seen as problems, people who are seen as disposable. You just push them away
and get them out of sight.

BRISSENDEN: In her attic overlooking the capitol building, Natalie Hopkinson is writing the final
draft of her book on the musical life of the Chocolate City. What's happening to Go Go she says is
a metaphor for the pain and the pressures experienced by much of the black heart of the city. The
music has become an easy target.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: The DC police have this program called the Go Go report and the signal is that
we're taking care of that Go Go problem for you. They're openly doing surveillance of this musical
culture and there's no real consequence for doing that in this city because it is so marginalised
and it is so associated with people that either the city doesn't see or they don't want to see.

BRISSENDEN: This marginalisation of the black underclass is common enough in other big American
cities, but this city is the prism through which the nation sees its politics. Surely Washington
should lead the way on race relations. Instead, it lags and the wounds that won't heal were opened
in dramatic fashion years ago.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: After Martin Luther King was assassination in 1968, DC had one of the worst
riots in the country. DC had considerable uprising and in many parts, burned. The parts that were
sort of the segregated black communities burned to a crisp.

BRISSENDEN: Much of the damage was done in the area around U and 14th streets, the heart of the
black business and entertainment districts. The anger smouldered in these streets for decades and
the ashes and the rubble of defiance forged a distinctive cultural phenomenon.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: What Go Go did was it went into those crevices and brought new life to them. Go
Go music filled all those spaces and played a really important role in just literally bringing life
to places where there was none.

BRISSENDEN: Over the thirty years since, Go Go grew but very little else did. For the average
African American here, life has been one step forward and one or two steps back.

MARION BARRY: I'm proud of our country, no question about that. I'm proud of our city but I'm not
happy with this divide and it's getting worse.

BRISSENDEN: Through the sixties and seventies, Marion Barry was a leader in the city's civil rights
movement. But as mayor in the 1980s and '90s he was the personification of the passions, frailties
and failures of his community.

MARION BARRY: America is the biggest consumers of drugs in the world - gasoline and drugs.

BRISSENDEN: Well as you know, you've had your own controversies in those areas too.

MARION BARRY: Well yes absolutely, but thank God I'm here now.

BRISSENDEN: Yep, exactly.

[1990 FBI tape - Marion Barry caught in hotel drug bust] MOORE: Ok... you gonna smoke anything now?

MARION BARRY: What you get?

MOORE: I didn't get anything. I didn't...

MARION BARRY: Go get something, go get it.

MOORE: You wanna smoke something? ...

In 1990 Mayor Barry in an infamous FBI sting was video taped smoking crack.

[1990 FBI Tape] MOORE: So many times of doin' this, I get too hyper.

MARION BARRY: Why don't you do one piece?

MARION BARRY: In this country, certain powers of the Federal Government, certain political enemies
were after me for a long time.

BRISSENDEN: But the black community saw persecution in his prosecution. After serving time in
prison, Marion Barry was re-elected mayor. Today he remains a counsellor but says he no longer has
the energy for the top job. Step on the streets with him though and it's clear there's still a lot
of love out there for the man who embodied black power in Washington twenty years before Barack
Obama.

MAN ON BUS: You the one who looked after all the young people, you looked after the old people.
They don't do it like that no more man...

MARION BARRY: I know they don't.

When you go into the area where I represented you see a different Washington. You see poverty at
54%, unemployment at 35%. You see the highest cancer rate, you see the lowest home ownership rate.
23% home ownership in Ward 8.... 65% home ownership in predominantly white Ward 3 and people don't
want to talk about that. They want to sweep it under the rug but I talk about it.

BARACK OBAMA: Now the civil rights movement was a movement sustained by music. The hymns of the
civil rights movement helped carry the cause of a people and advance the ideals of a nation.

MARION BARRY: Barack Obama whom I supported ... 44... admire.... he stands on the shoulders of
people like myself, who were in the civil rights movement..... and on the shoulders of Jesse
Jackson who ran for president in '84, have not done enough. The Federal Government should be
putting more money, more help and support.

BARACK OBAMA: Let the music feed our spirits, give us hope and carry us forward as one people and
as one nation. Enjoy.

BRISSENDEN: Barack Obama is an I-pod President with a keen ear for music, history and change. At a
White House concert this year the President assembled a who's who of recording stars to celebrate
the music of the civil rights movement. Many African Americans are pragmatic about what this
President might be able to deliver, but many also believe he has a unique responsibility to bridge
the fault-lines of race in this country.

BARBARA LEE: Symbolism is never enough but I'm going to tell you this is not a post racial society
and the President has said that you know?

BRISSENDEN: Barbara Lee chairs the Congressional Black Caucus. She knows better than most that
there's a heightened expectation from African Americans for this President to deliver and
impatience is growing.

BARBARA LEE: The Black Caucus has been in existence for forty years and we've always been
impatient. When you look at the poverty rates in the African American community, when you look at
economic disparities, when you look at African American businesses, when you look at the
educational gaps, when you look at health disparities - we're going to stay impatient until justice
is served.

PASTOR TONY LEE: And there are people who are trying to act like oh it's no big deal. Oh it's no
big thing. But every time they play a picture of that First Family, it's a big deal. When you see a
black family in the White House, black mother, black father, two black girls, little dog, black
grandma living there, when you see that it says something to the world that is so different than a
lot of the images that have been portrayed historically through media all over the globe. That in
itself is significant, greatly significant, and it causes our young people to be able to dream in
ways that they never were able to before.

BRISSENDEN: Pastor Tony Lee is one of the more active figures in the Washington badlands. His
services are a collision of gospel and Go Go.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: It's been pretty amazing what he's been able to do and how his church has grown.
You know he uses Go Go as a carrot to bring in the people who he feels like he could help and he's
incredibly effective at it.

BRISSENDEN: Tony Lee's flock is growing and so is his influence, but he counts himself a realist
when it comes to Obama's ability to make things better, here and in other black neighbourhoods.

PASTOR TONY LEE: I think that everyone thought that a black president comes in and so you're never
going to hear anything from the black civil rights establishment because they'll all be so happy.
No! He's the President and so there are going to be needs for them still to be an advocate for our
issues to push the President to do what needs to happen. Does that mean he doesn't want to do it?
No. But he needs some political capital to be able to make some stuff happen. He needs some folks
grumbling to be able to make some stuff happen etcetera. So yeah, I see him being the president he
said he was going to be.

BRISSENDEN: Stuff that is happening is either superficial or significant depending on your hopes.
Today on U Street where the fires of racial rage burned in the 60s, places like Ben's Chili Bowl, a
black American culinary institution have become a tourist attraction. It's said to be the
President's favourite burger joint. He even recommends it to other world leaders.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: I would never in a million years have imagined that the President of the United
States and the President of France would be sitting in Ben's Chili Bowl. I mean it's like
completely revolutionary.

BRISSENDEN: And yet, ever so gradually, depressed neighbourhoods are falling to gentrified
developments, pushing black Washington and its Go Go soundtrack out of earshot. It's enough to send
the fallen legends of Go Go spinning in their graves.

During our assignment, Little Benny, a Go Go superstar in these city limits and relatively unknown
elsewhere, passed away. A heart attack, not a gun, and he was just 46.

NATALIE HOPKINSON: Little Benny was a seminal figure in Go Go and it was a huge, huge shock to the
Go Go community and a big loss. For people who never had a voice, were never acknowledged by anyone
in mainstream culture, even in mainstream DC culture, Go Go is that venue. It's that place where
you recognise I exist, I existed, I made a contribution. You know, I was here.

BRISSENDEN: Despite the pressures on the people and their music, nobody here is prepared to say Go
Go is going to fade away any time soon.

CHI ALI: I really don't know. I can't tell you why they hate the music so much. Go Go's a part of
DC. You can't even fix your lips to say District of Columbia without speaking Go Go.

MAN IN CAR: Well all right now. This is Go Go city. We came up with this. We put this on the map
here and nobody do it like DC do it baby.

PASTOR TONY LEE: You'll never stop Go Go music in this city. If they stopped Go Go music in every
club, it would still be played in this church. How do you stop that? If they stop Go Go music in
every place my church attendance would probably go up like four times. It'll be like, good God we
can't hear a Congo beat anywhere else, let's go to the church it's a safe place to hear it. It's a
part of us. It's a part of what we've grown up with.