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DC Councilman Moves to Ban Minors from Clubs in DC

02.02.07

In response to a the murder of Talesha Ford outside at a nightclub in DC Councilman Jim Graham has introduced emergency legislation to ban minors from venues that serve alcohol In response to a the murder of Talesha Ford outside at a nightclub in DC Councilman Jim Graham has introduced emergency legislation to ban minors from venues that serve alcohol. We grieve the senseless loss of another young life on our streets but can't fathom the Councilman's response would be to instantly wipe out a 20+ year effort on behalf of DC's music community to make music and the positive communities it creates accessible to people of all ages.

Since the early 80s DC has built not only a rich musical tradition, but a tradition of using musical bonds to support community activism. Organizations like Positive Force have raised hundreds of thoudands of dollars for local shelters, medical clinics, AIDS outreach, rape centers, etc. -- all through all-ages benefit shows sponsored in nightclubs, church halls and non-traditional music spaces alike. Many of the people who volunteer for groups like Positive Force, and many of the members of the bands that play these shows, are teenagers or were welcomed into this community while in high school or before.

Please write to Jim Graham and Mayor Fenty now and show your support for all ages access to music in Washington, DC.

Write
Write Mayor Fenty

The following letter was written by Alec Bourgeois on behalf of Dischord Records:

Dear Councilman Jim Graham,

I have read that in response to the senseless killing of Taleshia Ford outside a nightclub in Northwest you are considering offering legislation to the D.C. Council that would ban minors from music venues that also serve alcohol. I have long supported the need to address the violence that is all too common for our young people but I think banning young people from activities that connect them to the District's rich and diverse musical community is both short sighted and ill-considered.

I grew up in Washington D.C. and I started going to concerts in 1979 when I was 14 years old. The choice for me was very clear at that time, find something useful and creative to do or follow the drug addled battle cry of a generation who was destined for this city's worst. I chose the former. Thankfully this was a time when Washington's underground music scene, both punk rock and go-go, was coming into it's own and many of the band members were themselves under the legal drinking age, which at the time was 18 years old. Rather than being segregated to "minor" status we were embraced by fellow musicians and a select group of club owners who encouraged and supported our efforts to take control of our status and find ways to integrate ourselves, as underage audience and band members, into the larger community.

We knew that people were taking a chance on us so took it upon ourselves to show goodwill to local club owners by policing our own shows and drawing "Xs" on our hands to show we were underage so the bartenders knew who not to serve. This cooperation between bands, concert goers and nightclub owners led to the establishment of Washington's world renown all-ages venues, like the 9:30 Club, Black Cat, etc., who tightened up the policies we invented and made them part of their standard operating procedure. I have since toured in both the States and Europe and can tell you first-hand that not only does Washington enjoy an international reputation for musical excellence but is unique in its management of its all-ages music community.

None can argue whether the inclusion and active participation of "minors" in the Washington music community is one of the major reasons for it's initial rise and continued vibrancy. Nor can one argue that the active participation in a community that cares for it's own, offers positive mentors, cultural diversity, and teaches self reliance has saved many, many more souls from the violent and dangerous distractions on our streets than it has claimed.

DC is the home of Chuck Brown, Fugazi, Positive Force and many other musical groups, labels, venues and organizations that work outside the usual boundaries. You must recognize and make the distinction between "watering holes" and responsible community entities. If irresponsible venues need to be held to a higher standard, so be it. However, further segregating and alienating young people from our cultural communities and painting all of the District with the same stroke serves no one, never has, and never will. If you need guidance, talk to Dante at Black Cat or Seth at 9:30 Club and ask their advice on how to maintain a safe and positive atmosphere for all-ages shows that are neither teen dances nor free-for-alls. They have been doing it for more than 25 years and both this city and their businesses are better because of it.

Respectfully,

Alec Bourgeois, Dischord Records



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