More than 600 people (kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, community leaders, and neighbors) stopped by to take part in a celebration of culture and connection put on by Zócalo and several community partners—the Port of L.A., Levitt Pavilion Los Angeles, The Music Center, Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, Wilmington Art Walk, LA Commons, KCRW, and the Los Angeles Times—with generous support from Atom Tickets.
L.A. Times columnist Gustavo Arellano was emcee
The party began in a warm afternoon fit for summer, and went on well past sunset. Guests enjoyed sets from KCRW DJ Raul Campos and local Wilmington DJ Mario “Dred” Lopez, performances by Pacifico Dance Company and Korean Classical Music and Dance Company, food vendors, art activities by LA Commons, and a pop-up Wilmington Art Walk. Los Angeles Times columnist Gustavo Arellano, the first contributor to the “Diaspora Jukebox” playlist series, emceed.
That series, part of Zócalo’s 20th birthday editorial and events offering, “What Connects Us,” celebrates songs beloved by Angelenos, the ones that get us up and moving at a wedding, help us through heartbreak, and play again and again, remixed across generations. Whether it’s Sublime or Selena or Celine, bolero or bebop or bhangra, these songs form a community’s playlists. And strung together, these playlists form Los Angeles’ jukebox, reflecting its kaleidoscopic culture.
The series inspired the dance party, and the DJs infused their sets with songs from these playlists, from “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” by the GAP Band to “Cha Cha Slide” by DJ Casper.
Before the dance floor opened, Arellano introduced L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn, L.A. City Councilmember Tim McOsker, and former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who all spoke of the power of music and community before shaking their hips with the crowd.
L.A. City Councilmember Tim McOsker
Former mayor of L.A. Antonio Villaraigosa
L.A. County Supervisor Janice Hahn (left) with Zócalo editor Talib Jabbar (right)
Dred Lopez, who grew up in Wilmington, was the first to hit the decks. “I’ve always wanted to be a DJ since I was a teenager,” he told Zócalo. “I used to DJ at my parents’ family parties. And little by little they were like, ‘You’re good.’”
It was clear that eclectic selections from both Dred and KCRW’s Campos held significance for people in the audience. “I grew up in L.A. in the ’90s, so anything ’90s hip-hop related, I’m all in,” said Julian Martinez, who came with a group from Mid-City. When “Como la Flor” played from the speakers, Pacifico Dance Company member Alina Hernández, who had just taken the stage to perform the company’s signature mix of modern and traditional styles of Mexican dance, told Zócalo that Selena was “a huge inspiration” for her. “I’m always trying to embody that stage presence she had,” she said.
Between the flurry of breakdancing, two-stepping, and a Korean stylized fan dance, and amid a sea of glow sticks and a warm Pacific breeze, patrons enjoyed pizza from a mobile oven, treated themselves to chocolate-dipped paletas, and perused art from local vendors.
DJ Mario "Dred" Lopez
DJ Raul Campos
Pacifico Dance Company performing Mexican folklórico dances
Korean Classical Music & Dance Company performing a fan dance
In addition to cutting the cement rug, audience members added songs to a new Spotify playlist meant to complement Zócalo’s Jukebox—to share the music that means something to them and their communities.
Long Beach resident Joseph Cabral added “Amor Eternal” by Juan Gabriel. “It’s always played at funerals and moments where you’re trying to remember people. It’s a song that is grieving the loss of a source of love in your life. The Juan Gabriel version makes me think of my grandma and her connection to Juarez, and the music scene there.”
Campos closed the night with “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire—a call for us all to keep our hearts ringin’ and our souls singin’. The spirit of the Diaspora Dance Party and “What Connects Us” was apparent—connecting the multiple places we call home together on one dance floor, at one moment, with each other.