Black folks in D.C. brought the cookout, go-go and church to the Capitals’ Stanley Cup title parade
It was a party on the corner of Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue
On the corner of Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, close to 200 people gathered in a semicircle. In the middle was The Unknowns, an area music group composed of Kenny Sway, Rahdeem “Jet” Baskin, Shelton “Sonny” Williams and Deveirce “D” Whittington that covers popular songs, with their speakers, drums, guitars and vocals that picked off anyone who walked within earshot.
As they performed Bruno Mars’ “Finesse,” Marcus Green gravitated toward the middle of the circle like a bug to the light and began to beat his feet to the rhythm of the music. He allowed his body to move freely and without a single care as he transitioned to chopping — the dance known to D.C. and the surrounding area.
When The Unknowns and lead singer Sway moved on from the party favorite to Maxwell’s “This Woman’s Work,” Green started doing praise dances, and other people watching raised their hands as if the pastor was really starting to get into their bag during the sermon.
DMV group The Unknown is out for the @Capitals Stanley Cup title parade. Lead singer Kenny Sway pulled a girl out the crowd and covered @_MAXWELL_’ This Woman’s Work and someone was chopping in the background. We’ve reached peak DC pic.twitter.com/WxSAxFAr5l
— Rhiannon Walker (@InstantRHIplay) June 12, 2018
You see, all of these people were out in the city because the Washington Capitals brought home the Stanley Cup on June 7 by beating the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-3, in Game 5 of their best-of-seven series. And for the first time in 26 years, the nation’s capital had a championship parade for a major four-sport victory.
Green explained that the Capitals’ victory gave him the opportunity to have something to celebrate after the death of a family member that had him crying and upset for the past few days. By being in the middle of the circle and drawing people in to dance with him, he was able to feel like himself again and feed off the positivity.
“It feels like euphoria,” said Green, a 38-year-old D.C. native. “It’s a beautiful day outside, people are dancing, singing and just having a good time. I was in a go-go when I found out the Caps won, and I just knew I needed to be in the city when the parade happened. I ended up here because the vibes were good. I didn’t come in with a plan outside of that.”
The celebration on Tuesday looked and felt like a city letting loose for the first time in more than a quarter of a century. Hockey is the least racially diverse sport of the big four, but if anyone thought for a single second that was going to stop black folks, especially those in Chocolate City, from celebrating the occasion, well, they just don’t know.
Not when one of the most important players on the team during the Stanley Cup chase was a black man named Devante Malik Smith-Pelly. Not when he scored goals in all three of Washington’s final games, including the equalizer in the Stanley Cup clincher. And not when that man bumped tradition and said before the Caps won Game 5 that he’d already made up his mind not to attend any White House celebration that the team participated in because he said the president is racist and sexist.
Oh, no, black area natives were going to be out in force, even if they weren’t in the thick of the parade activity. At one point a black man with a cowboy hat and very loved Capitals shirt on was riding around on a horse hyping up the crowd. There was a little bit of something for everyone if they looked for it. And The Unknowns on that corner played a massive part in the party that ensued for black folks who came out and welcomed everybody who wanted to chop, sing Luther Vandross or Whitney Houston, dance, stand around, or whatever else they came for.
Sway explained that he suggested this location because it was close to the Metro station, the end of where the celebration would be and a great opportunity for the group to get exposure and reach as many people as possible. Boy, did they reach people. There were old couples dancing together, people who didn’t know each other chopping together, and people from all walks of life just swaying and enjoying the music as it flowed over them.
“It’s just a great feeling just to know that we can brighten somebody’s day,” Williams said. “When we first started doing this, we weren’t really thinking about much more than spreading positive vibes, good energy and good music. And playing good, wholesome music for people that may not have had a good day or may be going through something, and just to see that what we’re doing can bring a smile to somebody is just magical for us.”