Chuck Brown’s all-day wake/public viewing at the Howard Theater was rained on yesterday evening, but refused to be rained out.
Around 8 p.m., police began asking the large crowd gathered outside of the venue to disperse because of an impending storm. Vendors packed up their bootleg Chuck Brown t-shirts and fled, as did some of the people dancing and eating and catching up with old friends in front of the Howard. But the people in line to view the body of the Godfather of Go-Go refused to budge.
“No way will people leave,” said a Shaw resident who goes by Tweety Bird, when the police began asking people to head home. “This is a good tribute to a positive, humble man. It’s well-deserved. What’s some rain gonna do?”
Eventually, cops insisted, but some fans stayed put even when viewing was shut down. (Those who waited through the storm were allowed inside once the worst of the storm passed).
Before the water came down, the viewing attracted thousands of people to the area around 7th and T streets NW, in the after-work hours: By 7:30 p.m., the line to get into the Howard stretched all the way to the 7th Street entrance of the Howard/Shaw Metro station
Adrienne Dunbar, a Howard University graduate student from Augusta, Ga., said things definitely picked up steam in the evening.
“I came to campus at 10 this morning, and saw the line starting, people directing traffic—you couldn’t even get off of Metro,” she said. “And it’s definitely more packed now.”
Dunbar was checking out the crowds, but didn’t know who they were gathering for. “I don’t know who he is,” she said of Brown. “I saw all of the pictures of him, and he appeared to be older, so I called my Dad to see if he knew who he was.”
Some thought it felt like a block party, complete with food trucks selling fish dinners and funnel cakes, free water courtesy of DC WASA, and vendors, vendors and more vendors, pushing everything from Chuck Brown: T-shirts, buttons, PA tapes, t-shirts, portraits, posters, and lariats. A couple of people in the crowd felt the environment was too boisterous for a wake, but most thought it an appropriate tribute.
“Let everybody get their money—-Chuck would want the self-made entrepreneurs to get their money,” said D.C. native and Laurel resident Lenora Holloway. “This is beautiful. It’s D.C.—-and he’s D.C.”
Former D.C. Councilmember Carol Schwartz was in the crowd yesterday evening and also said that the turn-out and the event itself was incredible.
“I’ve lived here for more than 46 years—-I’ve been here when presidents died, and some of our political leadership of the past, and I’ve never seen a send-off like this,” she said. “I know his family is proud, and I know he’s looking down feeling mighty proud.
“It just shows you how artists touch people,” she continued. “Politicians come and go, but artists live on.”
Photo by Darrow Montgomery