There’s nothing peculiar about this celebration
Couples hugged tightly as they drifted away and danced and others long, long past their twenties, sat in lawn chairs beneath tents to take in the sounds of what they called “good music” as the oldies band played to celebrate the memory of singer Marvin Gaye.
The District of Columbia, Mr. Gaye’s hometown, honors the singer each year at the Marvin Gaye Appreciation Day in Northeast Washington. The festival, first held in 1988, is free and attracted about 200 people on Saturday, June 9.
This year’s festival was held from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Gallaudet Market Place at 6th Street and Neal Avenue NE. The festival was hosted by D.J. Paul, Minister Alfred “Mustard” Dearing, Ron Dearing, and his long time friend Melva “Lady” Adams and the Marvin Gaye, Jr. Appreciation Day Committee, Inc. which was established by Adams.
Some of the artists who performed were Mr. Gaye’s friends. Among the live performers were William Devaughn, the Orioles, Melva “Lady” Adams, Valerie Morrison, Aleawnna McKissick, Liberty House Minister Praise Team, Dave Bass, J Boog, Cindy Roberts, Nu ‘era, Person to Person, Ebenza, Sherrelle C. Smith, The Pocket Band .
Latoya Powell, 19, was not too pleased with the African American turnout in the crowd. “When I stand and look around I can see more people from other ethnicities and less people who look like me,” said Powell.
Powell also said she was surprised to see so many people her own age. “You know what the older folks say, ‘We young people don’t know how to appreciate good music,” Powell said.
The crowd could not get enough of the music especially when the R&B group, the Orioles performed some of their greatest hits. According to Powell, “It’s amazing to see how people really enjoy oldies music,” she said.
Adams identified herself as a long time friend of Mr. Gaye who lived four houses down from him when they were growing up. Their families always spoke to each other and Mr. Gaye spent numerous nights at the Adams house when he was having family issues.
Adams said the festival primarily consists of live entertainment, food, art, craft, poetry, dance, plays skits and storytelling.
“I want this festival and all the others to grow and become a calendar event for more people in the D.C. area that appreciate Marvin Gaye’s music and legacy,” she said.
On May 1, 1972, Washington officials declared Marvin Gaye Day in honor of the musician and presented him with a key to the city. Mr. Gaye was born and raised in a segregated part of the city called Deanwood. Last year, Watts Branch Park near the singer’s childhood home was renamed Marvin Gaye Park.
Watts Playground was where Mr. Gaye, who became a Grammy Award winner in 1983, first showed his musical skills to the neighborhood beginning with his first Doo Wop group “The Marquees.”
Mr. Gaye was shot dead by his father in Los Angeles on April 1, 1984