Go-go music’s biggest champion, Natalie Hopkinson, chats about the impact of positive change in D.C.
Natalie Hopkinson is a changemaker.
The journalist’s proudest accomplishment yet has been the work she’s done with Don’t Mute DC Go-Go Music. Hopkinson, along with peace activist Ronald Moten, created a petition to “bring back the music.” It drew more than 80,000 supporters from every state and over 90 countries.
“I’m very proud of seeing my research on go-go being actually useful — like it was my dissertation research — and being able to work with people in the community and have specific policy, culture [and] institutional change based on the work,” Hopkinson says.
Don’t Mute DC has restored millions of dollars towards communities like schools in Wards 7 and 8, as well as the United Medical Center, the only hospital in those wards. And after introducing legislation to make go-go the official music of Washington, D.C., it happened a year later.
In 2021, Mayor Muriel Bowser named “Pushy Women Day” in honor of Hopkinson and her colleague and former First Lady of the District, Cora Masters Barry. This came a year after Bowser appointed Hopkinson to D.C.’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
“There were some major structural problems with the arts commission,” she says. “There were all these systems in place that blocked out not just go-go artists, but really any sort of working artists who are not represented by these big powerful arts organizations. It’s been intense, but I’ve also been amazed at what is possible.”
In the works is her fourth book, where Hopkinson focuses on her experiences with advocacy, Don’t Mute DC and making positive change at the arts commission. Hopkinson is an optimist. She calls her parents, who were immigrants from Guyana to Canada and later from Canada to the United States, “the most incurable optimists there are.”
“I am very hopeful. I’m very optimistic. I believe that things can be better tomorrow and I’m as curable as my parents are.”
Unafraid to shake things up and constantly working on something new, Hopkinson compares herself to a yo-yo. She likes to spread change locally and globally.
Some of her current projects include the Africa Foto Fair, a collaboration with a virtual magazine; Howard University and American University; the Anacostia Youth Media Festival, for which she is a project scholar of; and an initiative for the National Endowment for the Arts titled National Urban Folklife Network.
From the way Hopkinson discusses her work, the future and the issues surrounding us, you can tell she puts love and passion into everything she touches. And her attitude toward life is inspiring.
Some words we should all remember from Hopkinson: “Positive change is coming.”
For more on go-go, enjoy this interview with Angela Byrd on the cultural significance of the genre in the District.