DC Funk Parade returns to U Street corridor

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews DC Funk Parade (Part 1)

Get ready to dance your face off and show your love of funk music for a full week.

The D.C. Funk Parade returns in person to the U Street corridor from April 30 to May 7.

“Just be prepared to come and enjoy live music outdoors,” said Jessica Teachey, senior director of community engagement for The MusicianShip, which has run the Funk Parade since 2019. “This is the city center of Washington, D.C. It’s … where all different cultures, ages and families all converge to do a great thing — and that is to unify through music.”

She expects thousands to attend the festivities, which are free and open to the public and run during the week that includes Mother’s Day weekend and the Howard University graduation..

“Maybe you want to bring your graduate down to dance a little bit, or maybe you’re just a mom coming out of Trader Joe’s and you want to bring your toddler to dance their energy out,” Teachey said. “Whatever brings you to U Street, we’re bringing the music.”

It marks a return to in-person parades after hybrid events during the pandemic, and this year’s festivities kick off Saturday, April 30, at Right Proper Brewing Company.

“We will have our beer release at Right Proper Brewing Company,” Teachey said. “We did that in conjunction with Urban Garden Brewing and Sankofa Beer.”

The fun continues Wednesday, May 4, with the 2nd Line Mural Walk.

“Thanks to our sponsors at the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation, we’re going to do a community mural walk that’s going to be hosted by author Briana Thomas of ‘Black Broadway in Washington D.C.’ and Katie Kirkpatrick of Off the Mall Tours,” Teachey said.

You can also enjoy online history lessons from Funk (U)niversity on the MusicianShip website.

“Great panels, workshops, a documentary, photo galleries … to keep the history of D.C. alive,” Teachey described it. “The corridor where our festival takes place is known as Black Broadway. Since the early 1900s it was the only place where people of color could enjoy arts, fashion and dining without being oppressed.”

It all culminates with Funk Parade Day Festival on May 7 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We are staging music at three to four different music activation sites,” Teachey said. “We’re going to be at the African American Civil War Memorial, we’ll be at Lee’s Flower Shop, we’ll be at the Reeves Center, and back again at Right Proper Brewing with our festival beer where individuals can see live music and enjoy entertainment right outdoors.”

Artists will include Night Train 357, Nia Monae, Skip Step, the Naptown Brass Band and headliners Critical Condition Band. “We  deliver new talent each year that people didn’t necessarily hear last year,” Teachey said. “Our region is peppered with phenomenal artists who deserve to be brought up a little more.”

Why is the funk genre so beloved after all these years?

“When you look at the genres that were born out of jazz in the early 1900s, which was the genre that was played the most through the U Street corridor … disco, funk, rap, hip-hop, go-go, funk was the most electric and free-going spirited genre of the group, so they decided to coin it,” Teachey said.

In the end, the goal is to raise awareness for The MusicianShip’s overall mission.

“We are traditionally a music education nonprofit that primarily serves students  in D.C. and across the DMV in a series of programs, whether they’re after school or during the summer,” Teachey said. They also run the Wammie Awards, and between the two, Teachey said, the goal is “to leverage our local and regional community to pour back into those children.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews DC Funk Parade (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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