Reflections On The D.C. Funk Parade

Funk Parade 7-4 We couldn’t help thinking, as we got to the corner of 14th and U, that the street fair preceding it and the route to be taken by the D.C. Funk Parade was exactly where, in 1968, the riots that gutted Washington’s interior all began.  Even as our nearby neighbor Baltimore was bracing for more disturbances in the wake of Freddie Gray’s murder by police, D.C. was fixing to throw a party, a parade. Funk Parade 7-2 14th and U: exactly the street corner where, on the Thursday night in April 1968 when word of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination reached the streets, the Nation’s Capital began to burn, with key commercial corridors — the heart of Black D.C. in particular — not recovering for thirty or more years. Funk Parade 7-14 That the Funk Parade would travel from the Howard Theater at one end of U Street, to the Lincoln Theater at the other end, made sense symbolically.  Washington is far from a perfect city.  If you created a histogram of its population, you would still see the zone to the left completely black and the zone to the right completely white.  But especially along this commercial entertainment zone, so filled with history from the Duke Ellington era to the time that began, for some of us, when the 930 Club moved nearby and rock bands began playing in a neighborhood white kids might previously have feared to tread, D.C. has become a city where whites and blacks mix more freely than most others in the U.S. Funk Parade 7-7 And so the D.C. Funk Parade was preceded by a street fair in the U Street Corridor, as it is called, with every alley booming with music. Funk Parade 7-6 Kids were there with parents, old folks mixed with the young, and for a few hours, the city shined. Funk Parade 7 We could not help thinking also about how history was everywhere around us, and the hero of the past might now loom with irony in the present. Funk Parade 5 But as the parade time came closer, this was a city ready to get its funk on. Funk Parade 7-9 People were out in their celebration finery. Funk Parade 7-8 And the parade itself — which for some weird reason had been forced to go along a different path last year, until this year a Change.org petition and a new mayor restored it to its rightful route — was finally almost here. Funk Parade 7-10 The streets filled and people took their places, even as clouds gathered behind us. Funk Parade 3 Until finally the Funk Parade arrived, and it was a joyous event. Funk Parade 7-13 Everyone clamored to see it.  And we were again left reflecting on what a remarkable city our home of more than 30 years really is, its problems notwithstanding.  What was destroyed by civil disturbances 47 years ago has in many ways come back, with a changed, multiracial population.  The very streets that were destroyed by rioting — 14th Street, the U Street Corridor, 7th Street, the H Street Corridor — being the places that today have been restored as the most vibrant sections of a city that is livelier than ever.  It made us hope that nearby Baltimore can have the same rejuvenation, but in much, much less time. Funk Parade 7-19 We know there is much to think of, to reflect on, if the progress that D.C. has made is to continue in the future. All images Leica M (typ-240) and 35mm Summilux.

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