Mt. Pleasant: The Social Power of Music
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Before last spring’s national mobilization around #DontMuteDC, there was Hear Mount Pleasant.
Mt. Pleasant is a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, D.C. Starting in the late 1990s, a public debate over the changing community’s culture and identity was waged over the issue of live music. This unfolded when local Latino restaurants were forced to sign agreements indicating that they would not present live music after a group of neighbors complained to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration, which permits restrictions on alcoholic beverage licenses.
A counter effort was led by another group of neighbors, organized as Hear Mount Pleasant. In 2011, they finally got the agreement reversed. Their decade-long clash reflected the challenges and possibilities of building communities that reflect the economic, racial/ethnic, and generational diversity of its residents.
Today, along Mt. Pleasant’s eponymous main street, music is a much celebrated facet of local culture—where musicians serenade shoppers at the Saturday farmers market, young fandangueros informally gather to play son jarocho in Lamont Park, punk and mariachi musicians participate in a benefit inside the corner grocery store, the Shrine of the Sacred Heart Church annually processes on Good Friday with live and recorded musical accompaniment, and a local Salvadoran-owned restaurant boasts an eclectic weekly lineup ranging from zydeco to jazz to country and various Latin grooves.
On August 11, 2019, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival partnered with Lost Origins Gallery to continue its D.C.: The Social Power of Music programming by channeling this history and local vibe to explore music and social practice, highlighting the voices of women artists.
The long afternoon and evening of activities was produced in collaboration with District Bridges and the DC Public Library Punk Archive and supported in part by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. It was anchored by Antonia Tricarico’s photo exhibition, Frame of Mind, which featured artists from the D.C. punk scene, 1997-2017.
The event also featured the following performances and activities:
- Cultivating Change: Music + Community in Mt. Pleasant walking tours organized by Tim Wright (Attucks Adams Walking Tours) and Natalie Avery (Javera Group, Radio CPR)
- A performance by multi-instrumentalist Janel Leppin and Anthony Pirog in Lost Origins Gallery
- Performances in Lamont Park by The OSYX, Park Snakes, and Bacchae, emceed by Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, riot grrrl, and “I’m in the band” podcast)
- Demonstrations and activities by the DC Public Library’s Punk Archives and Memory Lab
- An afterparty at Haydee’s Restaurant with music by DJ Kristy La rAt
Special thanks to the following people for making these activities possible: Jason Hamacher of Lost Origins Gallery, Robert Frazier and Indu Chelliah of Mount Pleasant Main Street and Mount Pleasant Business Association, Brianne Dornbush and Carolina Buitrago of District Bridges, Haydee Vanegas, Matthew Curry, Olivia Cadaval, Tim Wright, and Natalie Avery.
Sojin Kim and Nichole Procopenko are curators of the D.C.: The Social Power of Music program.