Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2007

‘Go-go’ a no-no

Boys and Girls Club asked to seek alternate site for concerts that residents dont want and police say drain resources

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The Silver Spring branch of the Boys and Girls Club is looking for alternative venues for its ‘‘go-go” events following months of complaints from neighbors who said the concerts disrupted their residential community.

The Boys and Girls Club, located at 1300 Forest Glen Road, had taken steps over the last few months to address the neighborhood’s concerns, such as hiring additional security officers, lowering the volume of the music — a genre of funk that relies heavily on percussion instruments — and moving the events to earlier in the day.

But those measures did little to tackle the host of other problems with the events, neighbors said — hundreds of teens congregating, litter, traffic and an increased police presence due to fighting, loitering and illegal parking.

‘‘We had always had concerns about that many kids congregating there, and the ability to supervise them well,” said David Nettleton, president of the South Four Corners Citizens Association, the residents’ group that makes up the more than 1,100 households that surround the facility.

The citizens association asked that the branch stop holding the events in favor of ‘‘more traditional Boys and Girls Club programming” in a letter from the South Four Corners Citizens Association sent July 21 to Will A. Gunn, the president of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

‘‘We just decided that this has got to stop,” Nettleton said.

While there were a few fights, there were no major crimes that were directly related to the go-go events, said Capt. Donald Johnson, commander for Montgomery County Police’s Third District. But the concerts were still a drain on police resources, he said.

‘‘We had to respond out, and try to take back control,” Johnson said. ‘‘When you put hundreds of kids in the middle of a neighborhood, you’re going to get some problems.”

The club held five go-go concerts, the first on Feb. 3 and the last on July 7. The events were organized by a Boys and Girls Club volunteer who was also a music promoter, said Salim Edwards, the area director for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

Edwards said he was looking at alternatives that invited youth to ‘‘explore their own talents,” such as open mike nights. The club also was looking at alternative sites that could host go-go concerts, he said.

‘‘We’re looking to move forward,” he said.

The GapBuster Learning Center at 8216 Georgia Ave. in Silver Spring has expressed interest in working with the Boys and Girls Club to hold ‘‘go-go events with a message,” said Yvette Butler, the executive director at the center, which offers tutoring and enrichment programs for students in kindergarten though grade 12.

‘‘There’s really not enough here for teens to do that’s free,” Butler said.

Molly Boyle, a spokeswoman for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington, said the club was talking to GapBuster in addition to the county and other youth organizations about the lack of activities for teens in the area.

Malcolm Clyburn, a junior at Springbrook High School and president of the Leaders in Training program at GapBuster, attended many of the go-go events at the Boys and Girls Club and said he never felt unsafe.

But Clyburn said he did look forward to the potential to improve on the events if they were held at GapBuster. The events still would be focused around live music, he said, but would promote social messages in between bands with videos on HIV and AIDS prevention, for example, or teens reading socially-conscious poetry between sets.

‘‘We want those who go to the events to come back with a little more than their ears full of music,” said Clyburn, who lives in the White Oak neighborhood.

Edwards said it was a constant challenge for the Boys and Girls Club to attract teens to the Silver Spring branch and come up with appealing programming. The club has an average daily attendance of about 150, a small number when compared to the more than 13,000 youths in Silver Spring between age 5 and 19, he said.

Nettleton said the club’s neighbors were willing to work with its staff in coming up with more appropriate programming.

‘‘There are a lot of things they can do besides dances,” he said.

Clyburn agreed.

‘‘If we could find a place where we could hang out, and even better, get something out of it ... that would be a good thing,” he said.