Funk is ready to take over U Street in May.

After the first annual D.C. Funk Parade was forced to inhabit V Street last year after the city government would not grant the parade permission to close U Street, the organizers are petitioning the new administration vigorously to move the second edition of the parade onto the larger neighborhood.

The event is an all-day, non-stop music festival and includes a day fair, a parade and musical performances. It will be followed by events at bars and music venues along the U Street corridor.

“We don’t want this to be an event where you have a stage with a bunch of people watching,” Funk Parade Co-Founder Justin Rood said. “It’s open for everyone to come be a part of it; to come dressed as you want with whatever noisemaker and be a part of the fun.”

The idea for the parade, which was first held last May, came to Rood in a dream.

“One night I went to sleep and I had this amazing dream about a funk parade and I woke up and thought this was something that needed to happen,” he said.

Lacking experience in organizing musical events, Rood partnered with Chris Naoum, who had experience in the D.C. music industry through his organization Listen Local First.

Rood, a D.C. native who lives on U Street, envisions the event as an expression of the U Street neighborhood. The area is a cultural hub of the District, with numerous music venues and D.C. landmarks like Ben’s Chili Bowl.

Historically a predominately African-American neighborhood, U Street has been the site of triumphant moments such as Marion Barry’s first inaugural parade, as well as turbulent times during the 1968 riots.

However, without the full support of the administration of former Mayor Vincent Gray, last year’s Funk Parade, which was attended by around 30,000 people, was forced to relocate to V Street which, according to Rood, could not accommodate the size of the event.

“I think that last year was a phenomenal event. The only low point was that the parade was the best part of the day but the route that the city required us to use was simply too small,” Rood said. “It was inadequate and the crowd ended up spilling onto U Street spontaneously.”
In the past, the U Street corridor was routinely shut down, both officially for parades and spontaneously by people celebrating in the streets. That trend, however, has declined over the past 20 years. The city has not shut down U Street since 2008, when it held an event honoring landmark restaurant Ben’s Chili Bowl.

This year, Funk Parade organizers are confident that they will be able to move the festival to its original intended location along U Street.

“I think we’re optimistic that, given the success of last year’s event, and how well we’ve worked with city officials to ensure that their concerns were taken into account, I’m hoping that there will be greater understanding from the new administration,” Rood said.

Though the administration of newly inaugurated Mayor Muriel Bowser has not yet granted the parade the right to shut down U Street, the mayor has been supportive of the parade.
“We are a pro-funk administration,” Michael Czin, communications director for Mayor Bowser, said in a January interview with radio station WAMU.

There is also widespread support for the parade in the community. In addition to securing the support from over 100 local businesses, the organizers of the Funk Parade have created a petition on Change.org to help secure the closure of U Street for the parade. The petition has nearly 1,300 signatures, but needs a minimum of 5,000 to be sent to the city government.
Councilmember Brianne Nadeau (D-Ward 1) said that the parade has garnered the support of the local government.

“The Funk Parade is put on by a collaborative group broadly supported by the community and their effort last year was a success that celebrated our local culture and brought an economic boost to surrounding small businesses,” Nadeau wrote in an email to The Hoya. “As they go through the permitting process, I look forward to working with the organizers and the relevant District agencies to ensure this year’s parade can safely proceed down U Street.”

Rood plans for 50 extra hours of music programming this year and expects the event to outdo the success of last year.

Although the parade is still months away, the event already has some Georgetown students excited.

“I’m a pro-funk individual,” Emily D’Arco (COL ’18) said. “It sounds like a really fun idea and I hope they’re able to parade down U Street.”

Funk Parade organizers will also host a kickoff fundraiser on March 12 at the Howard Theater.

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