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SIMMONS: Now walk the walk on Ward 5 talk

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This is a red-light alert.

Shortly before noon Wednesday, more than a half-dozen young women were strolling up New York Avenue Northeast toward Bladensburg Road in Ward 5, and they were dressed to impress — but not in the front pew of the nearest houses of worship.

These scantily clad, long-haired women could easily have led you to roll the word "hooker" off your tongue — and that's not a good sign.

Concerned stakeholders of Ward 5 have been raising red-light issues for a couple of years now, mostly in response to a proliferation of strip and adult-entertainment establishments, shelters for homeless and wayward young adults in motels along the corridor and marijuana shops.

At-large D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange, who lives in the ward, heard those concerns and urged his colleagues to approve his legislation that proposed a moratorium on gentlemen's clubs and the like, saying, "I definitely do not want to see New York Avenue or that area become the new red-light district."

Well, it's time for him and the chairman of the council's Judiciary Committee, Democrat Phil Mendelson, to take a look-see on their own and hold a hearing that asks Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier a couple of loaded questions.

"What's up with streetwalkers along New York Avenue?"

"What are you doing about it?"

Mr. Mendelson is scheduled to hold several Judiciary Committee hearings in the coming days and weeks, and at least one of them should zero in on prostitution and sex trafficking.

He needs to have a powwow with other members of the committee — Democrats Marion Barry, Muriel Bowser, Mary M. Cheh and Jack Evans — and rally a consensus.

To be sure, it was not a coincidence that on late Saturday mornings in recent weeks I've spotted several other similarly clad young women pour out of a motel a spit and a holler from the Stadium Club off Bladensburg Road and start walking down New York Avenue — the gateway to the nation's capital.

Mr. Mendelson needs to make sure the red lights are turned off before the woe-is-them advocates beg to have the social services spigot turned on.

The block is hot — too hot.

Chuck Brown

If you've walked and driven any distance in and around the city in recent days, you've likely heard the sounds of go-go.

It's a tribute to the so-called "godfather of go-go," who died May 16 at age 75. His body was lying in repose in an open casket at the legendary Howard Theatre on Tuesday, where thousands poured in. His funeral is scheduled for Thursday at the Washington Convention Center, to be memorialized for his love of family and humanity, and probably a mention or two of that wonderful smile of his.

Professionally, Mr. Brown didn't just "invent" go-go.

He was blessed with and never hesitated to extol a spanking new musical ingenuity that perfectly merged old-time-religion call-and-response with jazz, standards and funk.

His percussive beats became his signature, so much so that anyone living in Washington's inner core heard a new generation mimic the go-go genre that helped legitimize hip-hop.

A North Carolina native, Mr. Brown didn't have an easy life in his early years. He even wound up in prison, where he took to strumming a makeshift guitar.

But he didn't let the hard knocks keep him down.

I first met Mr. Brown when he played at my high school prom way back in I'm-not-going-to-tell-you, and I saw him perform umpteen times throughout the years.

Most recently, we greeted each other while he was signing autographs at an event here in Ward 5.

Same Mr. Brown, same trademark black attire and hat, same smile and same humble aura.

That he has gone on to glory hits a soft spot in thousands upon thousands of people — and well it should.

To know that his soul is resting in peace following gripping illness is reassuring.

Harps aren't the only instruments that God's angels play.

• Deborah Simmons can be reached at

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About the Author
Deborah Simmons

Deborah Simmons

Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...

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