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Prince Georges County Government forces local entertainment industry to mobilize

"We're Coming Out" a voter's anthem in the D.C. area
"We're Coming Out" a voter's anthem in the D.C. area

The abrupt cancellation of two performances the day before New Year's Eve, left promoters, club owners, bands and fans scrambling for alternative plans on one of the most profitable nights of the year. The events, planned months in advance, were cancelled due to the random enforcement of the law CB-18-2011. This law, which is not consistently enforced, was unanimously voted into law as emergency legislation in July of 2011 after District 7 Prince Georges County Councilwoman Karen Toles introduced the bill as a measure to curb violence.

The CB-18-2011 law amends County regulations concerning dance hall premises, owners, lessors, operators, managers, promoters and patrons, establishing license requirements, setting penalties for violators, declaring specific legislative intent to establish reasonable and uniform laws to reduce the number of violent crimes that occur as a result of events at dance halls and to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens and residents of Prince George’s County and declaring that a public emergency exists affecting the public health, safety, and welfare.

One local promoter, not connected with the two events and wishes to remain anonymous, states, "This was really messed up for everybody. [It] was supposed to take place in a hotel and Angie Stone, who is a national artist, was on that show as well as local bands. It's a horrible look when you have a national artist, who performs all over the world, have her show cancelled. The hotel had events there in the weeks before this one was scheduled so no one knew what was happening. It's just an embarrassing look for P.G. County."

DC M.U.S.I.C., which stands for "movement uplifting safe & independent communities" has been established by members of the entertainment community in the Washington, D.C. area including band members, club owners, promoters, deejays and community activists, to combat this law citing that it is stripping P.G. County and surrounding areas of it's culture and job opportunities.

The group has mobilized to produce an agenda, platform and strategies to address the attack on Music, Culture and Future in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. The group is broken down into 7 committees including Political Agenda and Accountability Committee, DMV Music & Go-Go Re-Branding Committee, Chocolate Wall Street Economic Committee, Workforce Housing & Development Committee, Re-Education Committee, Youth DC 63 Committee and the Returned Citizens Committee to ensure oversight on issues important to the residents and tax payers of the DMV.

The Go-Go Community, and it's major players including Chuck Brown and Anwan "Big G" Glover, has consistently been used by politicians during the voting seasons to gain votes as it is a well known fact that Go-Go reaches and influences generations of voters.

The promoter also states, "Look at the Mayoral race between Vincent Gray and Adrian Fenty. They knew that they needed representatives of the Go-Go Community to get some voters and win. They were going after all of the popular bands to get them on their sides."

With numbers comes power and DC M.U.S.I.C. refuses to be passive about these issues as this law is not uniformly mandated which has caused many clubs to close down. The Prince Georges County Department of Environmental Resources, the agency responsible for issuing the license, has not issued many licenses as more clubs have been forced to shut their doors than clubs obtaining the license.

At a recent meeting of DC M.U.S.I.C., one club manager explained that representatives of the DER has come to his club on 9 separate occasions looking for "just one more thing before we can issue the license."

This practice appears to be the rule, rather than the exception. Another restaurant owner, who was to include live music at her establishment, shared that she was closed down after being open for only 3 days due to a delay in the DER issuing the license. During the time the owner was attempting to obtain the necessary license, she still had to pay the landlord monthly rent for the building that was housing her restaurant, but not generating any income and sadly the doors were permanently locked after she had spent money to open her business.

According to sources, the DER did not have the applications available in July 2011 when the law went into effect and they were unclear on the licensing requirements and the criteria necessary to issue the license. This caused many people to lose their businesses in the County.

The law was enacted as emergency legislation as a guise to curb violence.

The promoter continues, "Any time you get a large number of people together, regardless of where it is, there is always a chance that something could happen. But Go-Go is a music. It's not responsible for murders. If that is the thought, you would have to stop selling tennis shoes, close Metro and apartment complexes. Murders happen with those things and in those places as well. It has to do with an individual, not the music or the clubs. They are paying the price for the actions of someone who has a problem. This CB-18-2011 is destroying an entire industry that the County could be making money from. It's really making Prince Georges County look like they only want 'certain' businesses in the County to keep up with National Harbor and pushing out the clubs and entertainment that have been here for years. Is this gentrification? Seems like it. It's really bad because you have a lot of band members, deejays, promoters, print shop employees that make the fliers, club owners and a lot of people in the Go-Go Community who can't even work where they pay taxes. A lot of them live in P.G. County."

In addition to DC M.U.S.I.C.'s efforts, there is a petition created through the website with over 800 signatures asking the Council and County Executive to revisit and amend this law so that club owners can get a decision within 60 days of application and if denied, an explanation and remedies so that the license can be obtained without causing business owners to shut their doors because they depleted their funds waiting for a decision.

The petition can be viewed and signed here.

DC M.U.S.I.C. recorded a video, "We're Coming Out" as a voter's anthem encouraging people to get involved in the political process and vote for those that share their goals and visions. The video can be seen here.

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