KPMAS Employee’s Go-Go Group Featured at Museum, Performs during Anniversary Events
By Jaclyn Seebsitt
It’s been one year since thousands traveled from all over the country to welcome the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), a historic marvel itself as the first museum of its kind. Over the past year, more than 3 million people have walked the museum’s halls to learn about the African-American experience and how it helped shape our nation.
Last weekend, September 23 and 24, the museum celebrated everything it has accomplished in its inaugural year. The two-day festival featured music, garden tours, and more. As you may already know, Kaiser Permanente is a founding donor and grand opening sponsor of the museum, and title sponsor of the museum’s Sweet Home Café, which showcases the rich culture and history of the African-American people with traditionally authentic offerings that support Kaiser Permanente’s commitment to healthy living. KP’s presence was seen and felt over the anniversary weekend with meditation sessions, yoga, and a photo frame cutout that provided great photo opportunities for attendees.
What you might not know, however, is how many ties KP Mid-Atlantic employees and/or their families have to the NMAAHC. Michael Taylor (pictured at left), a mental health assistant at Burke Medical Center, is the latest example of an employee whose history he shares with the NMAAHC. Michael is part of Washington, D.C.-based go-go group, Experience Unlimited (or E.U. as they are also known), who were inducted into the museum last year and performed at this weekend’s anniversary celebration.
“After we were inducted, it was weeks before I really realized the impact of the museum—long after I’m gone, this will still be here,” Michael said. “It’s something my kids and grandkids can see, something I am immensely proud of, just to know there are still people waiting to get in the museum, and everyone wants to be a part of it.”
Michael has been with KP for almost 17 years, but his love of music and history with E.U. go much further back: he’s been with E.U. off and on since 1981 and currently plays trombone, sings background, and choreographs for the group. He has also played music professionally for 38 years.
Experiencing E.U. and the Birth of Go-Go
E.U.’s exhibit at the museum features an album cover of their “Go Ju Ju Go” album (Michael is pictured second from left on the album cover), a large picture of Jimi Hendrix, and a conga drum. Hendrix was a major influence for the group, including the group’s name, which is a nod to the “Jimi Hendrix Experience”. The group has performed with several national acts over the years, including Grace Jones, Kurtis Blow, and Salt-n-Pepa.
The band’s biggest hit was 1988’s “Da Butt”, which charted at number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song and the group were also featured in Spike Lee’s movie, “School Daze”. The movie’s and song’s 30th anniversaries are coming up in 2018, and E.U. is planning a college tour to commemorate, Michael said.
Go-go music planted its roots in D.C., blossoming from the funk genre in the 1960s and 70s. The music is a blend of funk, rhythm and blues, and old school hip-hop, with a focus on lo-fi percussion instruments and funk-style jamming. “It relies a lot on call and response and audience involvement,” Michael said. “It’s one of those art forms that you’ll gain a bigger appreciation for if you see it live because you become a part of the show. The beat is infectious.”
KP and the NMAAHC
In addition to Michael, several other employees also have ties to the NMAAHC. KPMAS employee Donna Adams’ husband, BK Adams, is an artist who has a sculpture on display at the museum, and former employee, Maritha Gay, was surprised to see an exhibit dedicated to her grandfather, jazz pianist Fats Waller.
Additionally, more than 70 years ago, Kaiser Permanente’s founders Henry J. Kaiser and Sidney Garfield recognized African-American employees for their invaluable contributions to the workplace. This set the foundation for our commitment to diversity and inclusion. We are proud to help preserve African-American history and culture through our continued support of the NMAAHC.
“[The museum] has been nothing short of a phenomenon, and I’m glad just to have my little association with it,” Michael said. “It was an incredible coincidence that KP has an affiliation with [the museum]. It makes me feel good, because KP, as an organization has been great to me, so to be a part of both of them is just a double blessing for me. I work with a great bunch of people and I am fortunate. I look forward to it every day, and I’m happy with the job and service we provide.”
See more of our past coverage of our support of the NMAAHC below: