As we move into the Holiday season and stare down the Georgia Senate run-off that will hopefully keep the normally red state blue, it’s important to remember the role that music in general and DJ D-Nice specifically played in helping to get people to the polls while surviving the Covid-19 quarantine.
One only has to think about the way music has taken over Instagram Live. Dozens of DJs have taken to the Instagram airwaves, spreading joy, hope and musical memories to their quarantine-weary followers. Among the leaders is Derrick Jones, also known as DJ D-Nice, who began offering free DJ sets way back in March.
When D-Nice spins, Instagram listens and a highly-engaged community has formed around his live streams. D-Nice, whose initial purpose was to help people make it through the Covid-19 quarantine through great music sets, has inadvertently become a social and civic force. When one enters his set, they may be listening alongside Oprah Winfrey, Donnie Wahlberg, Joe Biden or Michelle Obama. In fact, Obama tapped him to DJ for an Instagram When We All Vote event, an initiative to increase election participation.
There are studies that attest to the efficacy of online political mobilization and shows “that social mobilization in online networks is significantly more effective than informational mobilization alone.” Essentially, being part of an influential community can influence your voting behaviors and D-Nice’s Club Quarantine (CQ) is a glowing example of this factor.
Lalanya Singleton, a nurse from Baton Rouge came to D-Nice’s Instagram Live for the music, but stayed for the camaraderie of the community. She initially viewed voting as futile, but CQ ignited her civic spirit. “I was not even going to vote,” said Singleton. “I’ve been against politics for a long time. CQ helped me realize the importance of voting.” Though she is unsure about future civic engagement, Singleton realizes that the country needs unification after a very divisive four years, and sees herself as part of that process. She intends to continue learning by watching 20 Four 20, a voter mobilization movement that grew out of CQ.
Paul Goldsborough also found fellowship in CQ. He marveled at the group’s ability to attract political leaders such as President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris. “You can actually say ‘I partied with the President and the Vice President, I partied with the first lady’,” said Goldsborough.
On a deeper level, Goldsborough appreciates that D-Nice used his platform to tout the importance of civic engagement and that he was vocal about his political stance. “It made me feel good that there’s somebody out there that’s actually speaking out and not holding it in. It made me say, you know what? I don’t have to hold it in either.”
CQ member Tracy Anderson agrees with this sentiment, and applauded D-Nice for using his platform responsibly.
“He [D-Nice] knew he had a responsibility with his platform, and he allowed us to be exposed to information so that we could all make our own solid decisions,” said Anderson. “A lot of people may have only thought about commerce. But he took his exposure to 2.5 million people and used it for good.”
Successful civic engagement comes with community connection and the underlying power of Club Quarantine is community.
For many CQ devotees, D-NIce’s sets provide a place to reminisce through music and for human connection, providing a vital life line. For John and Susan Copeland, CQ has become a beacon in a year filled with challenges. The couple leaned on the kindness of strangers-turned-CQ Family to overcome their bouts with COVID-19. Susan shared that while bedridden in the hospital, D-Nice’s infectious vibes gave her the strength to get up and dance. “That was a part of healing for me,” said Susan.
The couple had always planned to cast their ballots, but they found it helpful that D-Nice was an advocate for amplifying common voices through the voting process. John is especially interested in helping people stay connected to the process beyond presidential elections. “It [CQ] not only pushed me to be more engaged, but to also engage others,” John said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We have to stay involved and stay engaged.”
November 3 was filled with apprehension and anticipation, and D-Nice held a 19-hour DJ set for people to pass the time while waiting to vote and hear election updates. For Tyra Gardner, it was not just music — it demonstrated his level of commitment to the election process and solidified her commitment.
“In my mind, if you are committed to do this for 19 hours, I’m committed to sit here and listen,” said Gardner. She also thinks that the success of CQ for voter mobilization will cause an increase in similar use cases for subsequent elections. Club Quarantine may not live on forever in its current form. It may morph into another type of movement, who knows? What is clear are CQ’s social and civic effects on the community and the role music plays as a behavioral motivator. Group members encourage, connect and vote — while working up a sweat.
Let’s hope DJ-Nice schedules a CQ even to help get Georgians to the polls for the Senate run-off January 5, 2021. With his track record, if D-Nice continues his party with a purpose, then maybe Georgia will remain Blue and some of the stress around celebrating the holiday during a pandemic will be relieved. Whatever the case, the CQ community will continue to thrive and show how music and technology can help make the world a better place.
This post was written by Dr. Chetachi A. Egwu, Communication Faculty at University of Maryland University College. Dr. Egwu’s scholarship focuses on media, tech and pop culture and the African image in film, with an emphasis on documentary. The Howard University alumna is the host of the livestreamed show MediaScope, co-host of the podcast TV Channeling and co-creator of And We’re Live. Follow Dr. Egwu on Twitter @Tachiada.