A political and cultural activist is the best way to describe the life and work of Charles C. Stephenson, Jr.Â He has always sought to integrate culture and politics into his roster of activities.Â He has continued to look for ways in which the cultural arts could be utilized to motivate and empower people and their communities.
After growing up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., in 1968, as co-founder of Black Liberty Thru Black Unity he worked with various cultural groups as a mechanism to draw support for community concerns.Â In 1970, he moved to Washington, D.C. and continued his community work, which led him to find and manage The Experience Unlimited Band (EU).
For over twenty-five years, he has been identified with the evolution of go-go music in Washington, D.C.Â As the manager of EU he witnessed the ascent of go-go music.Â As a producer and manager, he interacted with all the popular go-go acts in Washington, D.C., which included Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers, Rare Essence and the Junkyard Band.Â He emerged as a respected advocate and promoter of go-go music in a time when various political leaders were critical of the music and the element associated with the genre.Â He would like to believe that his continued involvement with go-go has finally resulted in respect and recognition by the city of Washington, D.C. for the music.
In July 2001, Billboard Books released his first book, The Beat: Go Go’s Fusion of Funk and Hip Hop.Â The book, which was co-authored by Kip Lornell, is the only book available that explores the history and popularity of this often ignored music style.
In 1971, he co-founded the Malcolm X Day Celebration in Washington, D.C.Â This event has been recognized nationally for being the longest (25 years) and largest to celebrate the legacy of Malcolm X (El Hajj Malik El Shabazz), the slain human rights leader.Â This was a unique event to honor Malcolm X because it featured cultural groups such as Experience Unlimited and other go-go bands as an attraction to interest young people.Â This merger was a success because it allowed organizers of the event to attract people especially youth, who would not ordinarily participate in political activities.
By 1977, he began his 21-year tenure in the Washington office of former Congressman Ronald V. Dellums of California’s ninth Congressional District. As Legislative Director and Press Assistant, he advised and briefed the Congressman on day-to-day legislative maters, while managing the legislative office and maintaining constituent casework.Â In addition to district work, he assisted on national issues relating to Dellums’ Chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee and the House District of Columbia Committee.
Prior to joining the Dellums’ staff, he was active as a community organizer for various causes from ending the war in Vietnam to safe streets for children.Â He also held several management positions for community organizations concerned with the interest of the youth in Washington, D.C.
He has extensive political campaign experience in supervising several Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts in California and Washington, D.C.Â He continues his work with organizations, which are dedicated to expanding participation in the political process, and remains committed to his community.Â He is a former Chair or the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities and is the Chair of the 05-05 precinct in Raleigh, NC and serves on the Raleigh County Democratic Executive Committee.Â He also serves on the board of directors or is a member of The African American Music Association, Rebuild Durham, The Ronald V. Dellums Foundation, Regional Addiction Prevention, Inc (RAP), Washington Area Music Association and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
After completion of his work on Capitol Hill, he served as Director for Governmental Relations for Healthcare International Management Company, which was working to enhance health care services in Africa.Â From 2007 through 2011, he served, as is the Director of Federal Affairs for the City of Oakland, California.Â In addition, he is a former partner with Dellums & Associates, LLC, which provided strategic advice and planning to private companies and foreign governments. Â He also advocated with others to seek viable avenues to end the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS that threatens the life of millions throughout the world.
He is married to his dear wife, Judith A. Burrell and has two children Brandon N. Stephenson and Zora A. B. Stephenson.Â He graduated cum laude from American University with a bachelor’s degree.Â He currently resides in Raleigh, N.C.
For more information, go to www.thebeatisgogo.com.