Written by DCMS Marketing Team Lead, Jade Dixon
DCMS Marketing Team Lead Jade Dixon had the pleasure of interviewing Shellée Haynesworth, who is an award-winning director, producer, writer, storyteller, and creator of the Black Broadway on U.
Who is Shellée Haynesworth?
Shellée Haynesworth is a multigenerational Washingtonian. Ms. Haynesworth has worked on the staff at Black Entertainment Television (BET), WJLA-TV (ABC affiliate in Washington, DC), and for projects delivered to HBO/Time Warner, PBS, TV One, and the local network affiliates, among others. She has filmed across the United States and internationally to produce and develop compelling long and short content to surface new stories, illuminate fresh histories and strengthen the ties that bind us in our common humanity. Her clients include Smithsonian Institution, USAID, Gates Foundation, PBS, AD Council, Black Entertainment Television, TV One, Whitman Walker Health, and HBO, among others.
What is Black Broadway on U?
The Black Broadway on U: A Transmedia Project was launched in February 2014, which is a groundbreaking multi-platform story and public history initiative created to amplify, chronicle, preserve and enhance, the under-told story, cultural legacy, local memories, and voices of Washington, D.C.’s marginalized Black community along with the historic greater U Street community when it was known as “Black Broadway,” a city within a city.
The goal is to amplify these black community voices and their “first hand” memories to preserve a truer, “authentic” narrative of this historic American moment in time and humanities experience to foster knowledge and civic engagement around the important role of social justice, arts, history, and culture — thus allowing communities of color to “learn from their past to REIMAGINE and REDEFINE, from the ground up, the 21st century African American experience” amid today’s rapidly changing demographic and cultural landscape in urban America, specifically in Washington, D.C.
During our interview, Shellée discussed her passion behind the Black Broadway on U project, her take on the local entertainment industry, and how it has impacted the Washington, DC culture.
What was the moment that encouraged you to begin the Black Broadway on U Project?
In Spring 2013, I was riding along the U Street Corridor with my grandmother. I had missed my turn on 14th and U Street because everything had changed drastically. As we were riding, we were talking about how the community was changing. During that moment, she would was telling me stories about her experience on U Street. Then it dawned on me that we never took a deep dive into her story of how she landed in D.C. She was a part-time barber along the U Street quarter. At that moment, it struck me that we need to hear these stories from our elders and this prominent black history that took place along the U Street Corridor.
What do you consider was a major factor in changing the dynamic of the city?
What killed the black business community was the construction of the metro in the early ’80s. The project took so long and it was very difficult to drive around the area. If you go to Ben’s Chili Bowl, you will see pictures of the metro development in the U Street area.
Besides the Lincoln and Howard Theater, Republic Gardens is the oldest club that was black-owned that still remains from the Black Broadway era. Someone has purchased the site, but no development has taken place.
COVID-19 has impacted a lot of black owned businesses in the Downtown DC area, especially, the music venues located in the U Street Corridor. DC Music Summit is an advocate for supporting and maintaining the presence of our local music venues. How do you feel about the venues being shut down? How do you feel this will impact the entertainment industry in the city?
I think it’s sad. It’s a lot of reasons but it’s because of COVID and the change of demographics. The people who patronize the jazz clubs and music venues have a different appetite for what they are seeking in terms of music that may not pair with the smaller venues. I think larger venues like The Anthem have impacted the smaller and intimate venues like The Bohemian Caverns and Twins. The music industry in general has changed as well. There are certain genres that are no longer represented on the radio anymore. Thank goodness we still have WPFW and WHUR 96.3, but that’s all impacting this whole shift in music and how we are processing the music.
Before COVID, I visited Twins and there were only three people which is sad. I think the people who are coming into the city are impacting it as well.
During the ‘80s and ‘90s, what were your favorite music venues in DC?
I would say Takoma Station, HR57, and Utopia on 14th and U. I used to go to Republic Gardens and Cafe Nema on U Street to catch live jazz and Neo-Soul performances.
Shellee is a true treasure to our local black community and we appreciate her time and efforts in making sure we embrace our ancestor’s stories and how they impacted our culture today. You can learn more about Black Broadway on U at their website http://blackbroadwayonu.com/. Please show your support and follow them on Instagram @blackbroadwayonu.
The National Hispanic Heritage Month (Spanish: Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana) occurs from September 15 - October 15. This is the month to honor and recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans in our country.
Hispanic Heritage Month began as a weekly event. It was a legislation sponsored by Rep. Edward R. Roybal of Los Angeles and was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968. In 1988, the commemorative week was expanded to a month (September 15 to October 15) by Rep. Esteban Edward Torres (D-Pico Rivera), amended by Senator Paul Simon and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.
September 15 was chosen as the starting point for the commemoration because it is the anniversary of independence of five Hispanic countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, who all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21 respectively.
Influence of Latin and Hispanic Music in DC
No one can deny the huge influence that Hispanics and people from Hispanic descent have had in contributing to the growth and well being of the United States of America. Today, Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority group in the United States. One of the many cities Hispanic culture has influenced is Washington, DC. There are some cultural similarities that bring our diverse backgrounds together, such as language, cuisine, religion and most importantly, music.
Washington, DC has an incredibly rich Latin and Hispanic local music scene. From Rock to *Cumbia, *Son Jarocho, and Mariachi to *Vallenato, Salsa, and Hip-Hop, DC embraces it all. I’ve had the pleasure and honor to perform next to talented musicians, such as: Spanish Rock Band “Sonic Castaways”, Son Jarocho Band “Son la Lucha”, Mariachi Band “Los Gallos Negros” Latin Hip-Hop Artist “Brooklyn the Kid”, Andean Duo WAYTA, and many more. Everytime I leave one of my peers' shows, I am completely energized with happiness and joy.
The majority of the Latin and Hispanic shows you find in the DMV, generally speaking, take place at Tropicalia and Bossa Bistro Lounge, or during the festivals that highlight the international music scene like the Funk Parade and H Street Festival. We have such a rich, diverse, and vibrant local music scene in Washington, DC, partly because of the huge support from Jim Thompson’s Multiflora Productions, which is a multifaceted, multicultural agency that specializes in expanding the reach of genre-bending roots-to-the-future music.
How COVID-19 Impacted DC’s Music Scene
With the current situation of the music industry, and the pause on all the live shows along with the closure of venues in the DC area such as: U Street Music Hall, Kitty O’Shea’s, Eighteenth Street Lounge, and more looming in the shadows due to our current reality, I worry about the fate of the few venues that support Latin and Hispanic music and the future of Latin music live shows in the DMV as a whole.
Despite this I remain hopeful that we can turn this around to our favor by joining our powers; my vision for the future, once COVID has passed, is that we keep building those bridges in the DMV music community so that everyone involved in the music industry, regardless of the music genre they play, has a chance to be heard in more stages around the DMV area. This is also part of the reason why I joined DCMS, because I believe that united we create a stronger community and a better music experience for people who love and enjoy music as much as we do.
#HispanicHeritageMonth on Instagram
As a way to acknowledge the Hispanic and Latino music community during #HispanicHeritageMonth, DCMS is highlighting well-known local Latino artists/bands on Instagram (@dcmusicsummit) throughout the month to celebrate.
We will also be hosting a #DCMS Concert Series Fundraiser featuring Domino Saints in November. The fundraiser will help raise money for the virtual 2021 DC Music Summit, so we can continue the work of empowering our DMV community to thrive in the evolving music industry. The concerts will be streamed live on DMCS’ Facebook Page and the band’s YouTube channel. We will also have a special DJ guest. Stay tuned for more information!
*Son jarocho ("Veracruz Sound") is a regional folk musical style of Mexican Son from Veracruz, a Mexican state along the Gulf of Mexico. The instruments most commonly associated with son jarocho are the jarana jarocha, a small guitar-like instrument used to provide a harmonic base, with some double strings arranged in a variety of configurations.
*Vallenato (Spanish pronunciation: [baʝeˈnato]), is a popular folk music genre of Colombia's Caribbean region. Vallenato music is Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding, according to UNESCO.
The traditional instruments of Vallenato are: the caja vallenata: a small drum held between the knees and played with bare hands. It was used by the African slaves brought by the Europeans. the guacharaca: a wooden, ribbed stick similar to a sugar cane, accompanied by a fork that when rubbed together emits a scraping sound. the accordion: three-line button, German-origin accordion. It has three reeds per note and comes in different tones: ADG, GCF, and BbEbAb
*Cumbia [ˈkumbja] is a folkloric genre and dance from Colombia. Since 1940s, commercial or modern colombian cumbia expanded to the rest of Latin America, after which it became popular throughout the continent following different commercial adaptations, such as Argentine cumbia, Bolivian cumbia, Chilean cumbia, cumbia Dominican, Ecuadorian cumbia, Mexican cumbia, Peruvian cumbia, Salvadoran cumbia, Uruguayan cumbia, and Venezuelan cumbia, among others. The three drums common to traditional cumbia are: tambora (for deep bass rhythms), tambor alegre or mid-drum (used for backup rhythm), and llamador (also providing backbeat)
About the Writer:
Maryland-based writer and musician Cynthia Gross seeks to inspire an awakening to all we are and all we can become. With a passion for language in all of its forms and nearly a decade of experience in the marketing industry, She is a light seeker who understands the power of each individual’s voice to create positive, meaningful change.
Written by Cynthia Gross
August 25, 2020
Chance encounters sometimes result in the most memorable experiences. Perhaps it’s how you met your significant other or were first inspired to pursue your passion as a creative. While it can be tempting to attribute chance encounters with a stroke of luck, I tend to think they are much deeper and more significant.
My Honest Expectation
Case in point: Last year, I was assigned by Alchemical Records to cover the DC Music Summit, an annual full-day event designed to elevate and grow the DC music industry. As one of the publication’s writers at the time and an independent musician, I knew the DC Music Summit was a relevant story opportunity, but I admit, I was skeptical about the experience.
Like many of us, I’ve attended a number of conferences that provide high-level generalizations and cliché advice, at best, where you walk away thinking, “How could I have been fooled by marketing-speak?” That was my expectation. What I found was much different.
The Surprising Reality
From the moment I stepped into the lobby of Eaton Hotel DC, the conference venue, I felt a warmth that was palpable. DC Music Summit founder, Dior Ashley Brown, a DC-based artist extraordinaire, dubbed the “Hip-Hop Polymath” by the Washington Post, made it clear that the DC Music Summit is more than your average conference, and she was right! With more than 300 attendees, including the region’s top presenters, panelists, performers, and vendors, the conference covered topics ranging from making money on the road to inclusivity in music.
The conference was a refreshing reminder that in the midst of a world that creates labels and tries to tear us apart based on markers such as race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, partnership still exists. Like the Kenyan proverb says, “Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” I left the event inspired, uplifted, and excited about what was in store for the 2021 conference.
Recently, I caught up with the DC Music Summit leadership team. In exchange for sharing a valuable piece of fitness advice (the ladies got to stay fit in COVID, I’m just saying), I got a sneak peek of what’s in store for next year’s DC Music Summit. Here’s what I know: The 2021 DC Music Summit will be online. At last year’s conference, I heard a number of attendees comment about how difficult it was to select a concurrent session since all of the topics were so intriguing and relevant. Next year, the virtual platform lends itself to the event to be even bigger and more in-depth, and provide more opportunities to attend the program sessions you want.
Trusting the Process
These are unprecedented times in our country and our world. People are struggling, forced to change course and chart a new one. Some of us have lost loved ones. Uncertainty, fear, and anxiety seem to cloud our vision. Perhaps more than anything, this season has taught us that things can change in an instant. Be fluid. Cherish little and big moments. Love generously. Live in gratitude.
It has also reminded us of the healing power of music. Somehow, through it all, music serves as a balm that enables us to face our fear and doubt with courage. This spirit of resilience is at the heart of the DC Music Summit. Growing and thriving as a creative must start within and reverberate outward. When things change, we don’t give up. We innovate. We acknowledge the process as part of our journey to become all that we were meant to be.
Stay tuned in the coming weeks for additional details on the 2021 DC Music Summit.
Are you a creative looking for resources on how to navigate the pandemic? Check out the DC Music Summit’s COVID-19 resource portal.
Written by: Jade Dixon, DCMS TEAM
Date: July 20, 2020
Some people listen to music as a way to escape life, but for others, music is life.
I had the opportunity to speak with our founder Dior Ashley Brown, a DC-based artist extraordinaire, dubbed the “Hip-Hop Polymath” by The Washington Post, about how DC Music Summit (DCMS) is utilizing its platform to help local musicians successfully navigate through the COVID-19 pandemic. DCMS is a leader in emphasizing the value of underrepresented artists and teaching artists how to evolve and thrive in the music industry. As the norm of life changes, it is crucial to encourage creatives to stay motivated and practice their craft.
“You have to keep moving towards your goals even within our current limitations, make time for self-care, knock out that list of things you’ve been wanting to get done like reading, advancing your skills, getting deeper in your craft. This is definitely the time to go within to meditate/pray, to reset. ” -- Dior Ashley Brown
Dior provided tips below on how to keep grinding during COVID-19:
1. Don't stop creating. It’s our time to do what we love, and what is sorely needed. Music is like a muscle. The more you train it, the more it activates. Creating is a way of finding yourself, expanding on your capabilities, and evolving into a stronger sense of being.
2. Invest in yourself and your craft. Yes, it's necessary to believe in you! Invest time, energy, and resources into your passion. Take that class, read that book, save up for that piece of equipment. Investing in you and what you love can reap rewards.
3. Ride the wave. Storms and obstacles will come. Jump over those hurdles. Those challenges are there to make you stronger and to show what you're made of. Realize it, acknowledge it, tend to it, and attempt to heal at your pace as best you can to see yourself on the other side of it. You can do this!
4. Stay spiritually healthy both inside and out. Health is wealth and we’ve heard it many times before. Feed your spirit with goodness, meditation, positive energy, outdoor activities, and self care.
5. Never stop learning. There’s a saying, “You're only as old as your ability to process information.” From my interpretation, you age the moment you decide there isn’t anymore to learn. But, the awesome part about life is that there is always something new to learn every single day.
There is no finish line, and there is no rush. Use these tips as a way to guide you through this pandemic and your everyday life. As you continue working towards your goals, remember that going after your dreams is no easy feat. Just keep moving towards those challenges, and success will follow.
We want to hear from you! Share your tips and tricks on how you cope as an artist during these challenging times in the comments below.
Written by: Jade Dixon, DCMS TEAM
Date: July 2, 2020
At DC Music Summit (DCMS), our main goal is to empower and encourage local creatives to successfully navigate creative entrepreneurship. During this difficult time of COVID-19, we want to continue to uplift the spirits of our DC creatives. As our call to action, DCMS is creating options to engage with the community, promote their work, and generate inspiration, while echoing the importance of social distancing. We plan to execute the #CreatingInCOVID campaign starting July 9.
Over the next three months, DCMS will be interviewing DMV-based artists and allow them to take over our Instagram profile (@dcmusicsummit) to share their day-to-day productive routine during quarantine and how they manage to stay motivated and consistent with their craft during these hard times.
Below are the schedule of artists who will be participating in the campaign and takeover:
Instagram Takeover: August 31-September 2
Written by: DC Music Summit Team
Date : June 11, 2020
We’re living through history. An unprecedented health emergency, a tidal wave of civil unrest to eradicate systemic racism, economic and industrial uncertainty, and overall uncomfortable challenges to life as we knew it—but this is also a time for defining growth, unity, and momentum for change.
Without live concerts, sporting events, nightlife, and other activities, we may finally have our time to reflect, plan, strategize, and execute widespread revolution.
When Dior founded the DC Music Summit (DCMS), she envisioned an organization that would provide local creatives a safe space to bring their passions to light. She rooted in values of diversity, community, and service to ensure that all voices, especially people of color and women, were represented.
As a Black woman, she understands the urgency to invest in a better future for creatives like her. Her leadership, and our diverse team at DCMS, are a testament to these values and work.
As DCMS supports the creative community in working on their crafts and building their brands, we remain committed to uplifting undeserved communities around us. We’re committed to promoting positive change. We firmly believe it's imperative to stand up to racism, discrimination, and injustice not only within the music industry, but across all oppressive systems around the world.
"It’s time for real change. As we have accepted precautions during the global pandemic as a shift in the way we may have to now create, live, and thrive. We also have to accept the shift happening in this time of crisis. America has to represent and include all races, colors, and creeds, it's Constitution has to be for all races, colors, and creeds. America must stand by its proclamation. Black Lives Matter!” Dior Ashley Brown, DCMS Founder
There is no room for racism and hate in the music industry, this country, the world. As artist citizens, this is the time to utilize our talents and break down barriers as a way to demand justice. We ask tough questions and make powerful statements through our art as a way to become a part of the solution.
We believe that music fuels movements. Music talks when one feels stifled. Music drives passionate action. Music helps elevate mindsets. Music heals the body and soul!
Please comment and share how your work is helping embody these values, share any educational opportunities, post organizations in the industry that are part of the solution, or how you’re feeling and adapting during this difficult time.
Let's continue to encourage each other to keep our hearts open and our minds vigilant!