Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson, go-go promoter turned community leader and advocate, continues to stomp the pavement as he prepares for the rollout of upcoming projects set to preserve the native culture of D.C.
Yaddiya’s tireless movement and networking have produced multiple initiatives intended to salvage the dying culture refused by transplants moving into what is now a diluted “Chocolate City.”
“I spent a lot of my time here and just developed a lot of relationships and have always been involved in the culture from a party promotion aspect to fashion,” Yaddiya said. “I’ve touched many factions of the culture, and I feel like that is what gives me a strong connection to the city.”
When Yaddiya jumped into the local media and event industry at 18 years old, go-go became an entryway to connect with the culture of D.C. He became a local promoter in the music scene, simultaneously working with District designers inclusive of the luminary clothing brand Madness.
The consistent hustle and experience led the creation of Yaddiya’s own production company after developing significant relationships throughout the District. He quickly proceeded to host all-age go-gos by the age of 19.
Yaddiya’s work resume has certainly come full circle as years of his ability to convene the masses heightened in the mega movement sweeping thousands of residents in its rapture. This movement, called Moechella, is a spin-off of the California festival that’s infused with D.C. vernacular.
Moechella has shut the city down with past electrifying performances starring Backyard Band, Takeova Band (TOB), and several other groups. It continues to coordinate various community efforts to raise awareness and highlight demands amid the surge of police brutality against Black Americans.
“I look at Mochella as a byproduct of go-go. An intersection between gogo and politics,” Yaddiya said.
Yaddiya’s organization, Long Live Go-go, is facilitating an educational curriculum which will serve as part of their human rights, social action and go-go programming. The course is slated to launch next year within Roosevelt High School and Dunbar High School.
The organization is also in talks of teaming with the social studies department of DC Public Schools (DCPS) to develop a go-go curriculum for insertion into their existing D.C. History course scheme. The courses, intended as graduation requirements, are momentarily designated for the 3rd and 12th grades.
DCPS comprises a sizable Black and Brown student population, allowing greater opportunity for Yaddiya’s desired program to thrive through the city.
The spark behind the innovative school programming generated from a speaking appearance held by the American Friends Services Committee. Learning that the D.C. chapter was reportedly dissolving presented what Yaddiya believed to be an opportunity for Long Live Go-Go to add an element that will place emphasis on the organizing aspect of human rights and social justice within the musical movement.
“Intentionally over the past year or two, go-go has become more political. It’s kind of evolving. My plan is to give the culture a facelift and to insert it back into popular culture,” said Yaddiya. “I think that will economically empower our community since we are the culture. If we are the ones that are populating these industries, then once the funds and money come back to the city they would go to us – the Black community.”
Yaddiya continues to work in the spirit of creating a bigger platform to empower and spread D.C culture, values, and it’s official music far and wide.
“People always look at go-go as something separate from the music industry, when actually it too is an art form – it’s the same thing,” he said.
(Photographer:: Lafayette Barnes IV | @lafayette4dc)