by the Rev. Cedrick Von Jackson —
In 1986, hip-hop pioneers Run-DMC put a masterful spin on children’s nursery rhymes, which was actually a cover-up of praises and boasts about the group’s DJ, Jam Master Jay.
According to the lyricists, like the fabled King Midas, everything Jay touched turned to gold.
So proficient was Jay in his cutting, scratching and mixing, the awestruck rappers found themselves exclaiming, [email protected], that DJ made my day.
Throughout the history of hip-hop, the DJ has been, not only a necessary staple of the rap group, but also the indispensable ingredient for every house party and club gathering.
The DJ makes or breaks the party.
It is incumbent upon this pied piper of the ones and twos to quickly develop a synchronicity with the crowd while dealing with the interruption of a record skip caused by someone bumping the table like the character “Bilal” in the “House Party” movie franchise.
“Yo, Chill! Dance someone else, mane!”
Enter Derrick Jones, better known by his stage name, D-Nice. A DJ from the Bronx, New York, he took social media, the world and particularly the black community by storm the weekend of March 20-22 with his Instagram house party, #Club Quarantine.
At a time when many in the world were on virtual lockdown because of COVID-19, D-Nice, on multiple nights, brought together more than 100,000 would be virtual party-goers, giving Instagram the feel of a 20ft by 30ft living room pulsing with sweating bodies and slammin’ beats.
As one who lives with a major depressive disorder, I could not help but notice the therapeutic catharsis present in the “club,” even as I was late to the party. Whether it was his intent or not, D-Nice’s “Club Quarantine” hit several high notes in the battle against depression and other mental maladies.
As an individual living with depression, what you want to hear is, “You are not alone. I’m here for you during this tough time.”
What tougher time could we live in than a time when each step outside our doors is a step taken with deep caution and concern?
“Club Quarantine” not only reminded us that we are not alone, but it gave attendees a chance to rub elbows with the anonymous day worker and some extremely powerful people.
I am in the room with Michelle Obama! Oprah Winfrey! Quincy Jones! At a time of “social distancing” you felt connected in ways seldom felt before.
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the first time African Americans have, with deep caution and concern, stepped outside our doors. But, “Club Quarantine” meant we didn’t have to go anywhere to “be with our people,” listening to the music that both tells our stories and holds our memories.
Memphis resident Nathaniel Spates recognizes the power music has in connecting people. Spates, formerly known by his DJ name, “Nate Boogie,” said, “Before we could read, we communicated through music. All the way back to slave days. All the way back to Africa.”
He continued, “When you play a song in the club, everyone gets on one accord. Where it’s almost like a euphoria, where nothing else matters.”
While Spates admitted he has never experienced clinical depression personally, he still recognizes the power music has on the human psyche.
“Music makes me go from good to great,” Spates said. “Music with substance and quality just makes my day. It touches me on a subconscious level.”
Individuals living with depression also want to know that they matter, that their lives are important. Having a name and being acknowledged by that name is a powerful force.
With the love of an elementary school teacher welcoming students at the door with an individualized handshake, D-Nice masterfully navigated the acknowledging of names, calling individuals by their given or chosen name as they entered the “room.”
I mention calling individuals by their chosen names because being recognized by a chosen name gives a person the agency and power to be known and seen as they see themselves.
In a sense, D-Nice told party-goers, “I see YOU. The REAL you. And the REAL YOU is welcome here!”
“We live in troubling times” is one of the understatements of the century. None of us knows exactly how any of the others of us feel at any given moment. But even if you don’t know exactly how I feel, what I need to know is that you care and that you want to help.
By opening up the doors of “Club Quarantine,” D-Nice told us all, “I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I care enough to help.”
And knowing people care makes me shout, “[email protected], that DJ made my day!”
(A minister, poet, speaker, writer and educator, the Rev. Cedrick Von Jackson is a graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary, where he now is enrolled as a Doctor of Ministry student. He currently serves as senior pastor of Askew Grove Baptist Church in Longtown, Mississippi.)