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DC Funk Parade Will Funk U Up

by Eric Althoff

U Street knows how to party. When World War II formally ended in 1945, residents of Northwest took to the street, cheering and celebrating the Allied victory. The neighborhood had also erupted in joy in 1937 when Joe Louis became boxing’s heavyweight champion.

The 21st century has seen U Street continue its merry tradition of revelry, thanks to the Funk Parade, which began in 2013 thanks to an enterprising entrepreneur named Justin Rood.  He had a dream of a “low rumble” coming down U Street that was soon accompanied by a marching band and his neighbors all cheering—almost as if New Orleans had come to the capital city. 

Rood, inspired by his dream, pushed for a “funk parade” to celebrate U Street’s unique culture.  Rood and Chris Naoum of Listen Local First approached local businesses and community leaders, all of whom were excited about the possibility.  Thus the parade was born, and was a staple of Northwest’s culture, showcasing dancers, musicians and artists from the DMV.  The organizers in turn got nonprofits on board, including the MusicianShip, which aims to be a force for good in young people’s lives by offering music education free of charge.

Then, of course, covid-19 changed everything. Even as more people are getting vaccinated, a
parade is something that is hardly conducive to social distancing. However, the funk will march
on, with the hybrid 2021 iteration still being a celebration of the cultural, artistic and social
impact that “Black Broadway” has had on Washington, D.C.

“We’re thrilled to bring our community together in creative ways to celebrate Black Broadway—
past, present and future,” Jeffery Tribble Jr., executive director of the MusicianShip, said in a
statement. “The lineup across our events highlights the incredible talent we have in the DMV,
and we’re excited for people to experience the vibrant artistic, musical and cultural diversity of
our region.”

“May 1, 2021 Come and join the Funk Parade Festival team at Aslin Beer Co. (Alexandria, VA) on May 1st between the hours of 11am – 9pm to try our Black Broadway beer! Be one of the first supporters to purchase our limited edition sour ale. Brewed with notes of Dragon Fruit, Passion Fruit, Blackberry, Milk Sugar & Vanilla – get your 4pack while supplies last!” – FunkParade.Com

Revelers can head to “Aslin Beer Day” at the brewery’s location in Alexandria on Saturday
between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Other events planned for this year include the Black Broadway
Mural Walk on May 5, to be led by Funk Parade Historian Bernie Demczuk of the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation. Demczuk will show attendees 15 different murals in Black Broadway highlighting several of D.C.’s most famous historical residents.

Tickets to the various virtual events are available via EventBrite & FunkParade.com.

Those tickets entitle the purchaser to online performances from such artists as Oh He Dead, We The
Fix, Rallo Boykins, Roquois, OnRae LaTeal, Langston Hughes II, Marissa Zechinato, Chazz G and many, many others.

“Performers will not be live but delivering new video content on behalf of the festival that is only
accessible by purchasing a ticket to Funk Parade,” added Teachey.

In addition, a new documentary about the Funk Parade, directed by Candace Carrington and
produced by Michael Harrison, will debut this year. And Funk University panels will be free, and
hosted on Facebook Live & FunkParade.com.

It’s the best that anyone can hope for as the city—and the world—continues to face down a
pandemic now into its second year. Teachey is cautious about saying that the 2022 fest will be
back in full swing in person, as much as she hopes it shall.

“We are all still unsure if festivals in our country will be a recommended activity by the CDC in 2022,” she said. “The MusicianShip stays committed to keeping the communities we serve safe, and will not host any in-person large events until it has become a widely accepted industry practice, condoned by the CDC and our local government.

“We continue to remain vigilant and will become even more creative with the hybrid events platform we’ve adopted since August 2020.”

Tickets and more information about this year’s hybrid festival can be found at FunkParade.com.

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Eric Althoff

A native of New Jersey, Eric Althoff has published articles in “The Washington Post,” “Los Angeles Times,” “Napa Valley Register,” “Black Belt,” DCist, ScreenComment.com and Luxe Getaways. He produced the Emmy-winning documentary, “The Town That Disappeared Overnight,” and has covered the Oscars live at the Dolby Theater. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia, with his fiancee, Victoria.

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