This Wednesday, Tracy Cooper plans to show up at the office of Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker to confront him about a murder. It will be the latest outing in Cooper’s campaign to shutter the go-go venue where her son was stabbed.
When I met Cooper back in August, she didn’t look like a woman about to go on a crusade. She looked like a woman afraid to go into the basement. Her hair pulled back into a bun, she shrunk into a funeral home folding chair as she refused to venture stairs that would lead her to the refrigerated room in which the body of her son George H. Cooper III could be viewed: “Don’t rush me ya’ll,” she said. “Ya’ll don’t rush me.”
While the group of family members gathered to help make funeral arrangements waited for Cooper to summon her strength, Jay Johnson, George Cooper’s uncle, went over the circumstances of his nephew’s demise. On August 21, the 25-year-old had gone to Forestville nightclub CFE to see go-go band TCB perform.
Sometime during the Saturday night out, things went bad.”He got into a skirmish with one gentlemen, and the gentlemen that was [the other guy’s] friend stabbed him in the back.” No one has been arrested for the slaying.
When Cooper finally felt strong enough to see the body, it brought her some measure of comfort. Laid out on a table, her offspring looked as though he were merely slumbering. Cooper kissed her son and cried.
While Cooper came to terms with the fact that her son was dead, she couldn’t come to terms with why. By mid-September, she was waging a campaign against CFE, which is a go-go venue and has seen a murder a year since 2007. The club was one of nine temporarily shut down over violence. In February, Cooper filed a $10 million wrongful death suit against CFE, as well as P.G. County. The suit alleges that even though the club promised tighter security when it reopened, it didn’t provide it. The complaint also claims that P.G. authorities never followed up to make sure the club was making good on its promises. A call to an attorney for CFE wasn’t immediately returned.
In an episode that’s expected to air in early May, Cooper was a guest on the Rising Spivey Show, a television talk show on Bowie’s public access channel. The video, shown above, suggests that the tragedy is still raw for Cooper, and that she’s unlikely to give up on shuttering CFE anytime soon.
Cooper’s story is one more to consider as we ponder the decades long question of whether go-go attracts violence. Though CFE may deserve to be closed for not doing enough to protect its patrons, I remain in the camp of those who believe the music itself isn’t culpable.
Historically, outsider music has often had problems with violence. But the stabbings that happened at blues venues as that music took hold in the south, for instance, had very little to do with the performers and a lot to do with attracting a crowd that was alienated and angry for reasons wholly independent of their musical tastes.