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Photo credit: MARVIN JOSEPH


Dr. Natalie Hopkinson is a writer and Associate Professor of Media, Democracy & Society at The American University in Washington, D.C. She is the author of three books, and a former staff writer, editor and columnist at the Washington Post, The Root and Huffington Post. She specializes in Black and Indigenous culture, music, art, history, and knowledge systems. She co-founded the Don’t Mute DC political movement to preserve and protect go-go, Washington's indigenous funk sound, and co-led a coalition of scholars, activists and artists that successfully advocated for DC Law 23-51 Go-Go Official Music of the District of Columbia Act. She has served the arts and cultural sector through appointments to the Culture Caucus of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the National Folklife Network of the National Endowment for the Arts, and the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities. She has curated programs and exhibitions for the Go-Go Museum & Cafe, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Humanities DC, and others. 


Natalie Hopkinson's books include: A Mouth is Always Muzzled (2018, The New Press), Go-Go Live (2012, Duke University Press) and Deconstructing Tyrone with Natalie Y. Moore (2006, Cleis Press). Her writing was recognized by the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, PEN-America, and the Independent Publishers Association, SPIN Magazine, among others.

The Capstone Group, the D.C. Commission on Women, and The Poverty & Race Research Action Council named her a “flame of inspiration” and “cultural influencer” and “voice for racial justice.” District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser proclaimed Nov. 5, 2021 “Pushy Woman Day” in Washington, D.C. to honor her success challenging entrenched special political interests in the arts. She is the recipient of the 2023 Artist Activist award from the Canady Foundation for the Arts. 


Dr. Hopkinson specializes in building bridges between cultural communities in and beyond the Ivory Tower. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa and earned a B.A. in political science from Howard University, where she later spent several years as a member of the doctoral faculty in Communication, Culture in Media Studies. She earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in journalism and public communication from the University of Maryland-College Park. Her 2007 doctoral dissertation explored the ways in which go-go, Washington, D.C.'s indigenous music genre and culture, challenged norms, resisted colonization, and served as a major political voice for Black Washington.

Since 2019, her work as a co-founder of the Don’t Mute DC Go-Go Music and Culture movement activated thousands of people in demonstrations in the streets and online to fight back against gentrification and cultural erasure. She led the push to vacate 1980s laws and policies that targeted and criminalized go-go. She served as chief architect of a $3 million plan for Covid-19 pandemic relief to go-go artists and preservationists. 

She collaborates with governments, schools, libraries, museums, and other cultural organizations to design projects that engage general audiences through oral history, archival, digital humanities, mapping, and other cross-disciplinary theories and storytelling methods. She believes everyday people can use these tools to amplify their voices and build a world where everyone is heard, everyone belongs, and everyone is free.


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