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A blaze of flashing cruiser lights and police tape greeted clubgoers as they exited the Hung Jury Pub at H and 19th Streets NW on the morning of June 18. Confused local hiphoppers were directed away from the chaos out front and instead through the alleyway leading to 19th Street. Murmurs of “What happened?” and someone howling in anguish out on the street replaced the usual sounds of thumping beats and muffled lyrics emanating from the club. Dan Metcalf, a member of the security team that worked Hung Jury’s Soul Camp Thursdays, had been shot.
The culprit was an “unruly patron” whom Metcalf had bounced hours before. Metcalf died in the hospital that morning. Hung Jury no longer has hiphop on Thursday nights.
“That tragedy woke us up,” says Jamal Reid. Reid is the spokesperson for the Hip Hop Federation, a fledgling organization of artists and fans dedicated to promoting the hiphop culture in D.C. “Violence still exists in hiphop,” Reid laments. “It was never in our mission statement to even worry about working to be anti-violence or anything like that, but now we take it as being inherent in…preserving the hiphop community.”
Recently, Reid’s performance group the Amphibians was approached by members of another community organization, Mesa, to participate in a cross-genre local artist showcase this Saturday, July 24. The show, called Diverse City, is one of many punk-rock, go-go, spoken-word, and hiphop shows that Mesa has sponsored in the Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods. It will feature rappers Team Demolition, Chi-Garden, Infinite Loop, and Crushed Ice as well as folk artist Amelia Ray and Latino rockers Machetres. Mesa’s Natalie Avery says, “The idea wasn’t just to have one or two people saying ‘OK, I pick you, you, and you’ to be in this sort of smorgasbord show. The idea is really building relationships and networks with people, so that you’re not just putting on a show. So that we have a better independent, autonomous culture infrastructure.”
As Avery became aware of the upstart Hip Hop Federation, she found similarities between that organization’s desire to formalize its own scene and the do-it-yourself attitude of the punk-rock milieu with which she was familiar.
The union of the two groups was uneasy at first. “When it came to me as the Amphibians performing it was no problem. When it became the organization being involved, that’s where the problem came in, because it was more of ‘How are we involved?’ Were we just getting acts and helping to promote? Were we organizing the event?” The federation gradually became more and more involved in the program and is now a co-sponsor.
Although Reid does not believe that his people’s role in Diverse City was quite as solid as it could have been, the Hip Hop Federation has made at least one very important decision regarding the show. Mesa has decided that a portion of the proceeds from the Diverse City show will go to the Economic Human Rights Campaign. The rest will go to the family of Dan Metcalf, father of two.—Neil Drumming
Diverse City starts at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 24, at the Wilson Center, 15th and Irving Streets NW. Admission is $6.