DJ Diaspora (Vanessa Beck), DJ/Community Organizer
IG: @DJ Diaspora
Where do you live? Who are you quarantining with?
Currently quarantining downtown with my mom, 73, and my cat, 17. My mom moved from Chicago to Baltimore in September. I was going through a breakup. Rather than look for a new place ASAP, I moved in with my mom, figuring I could help her get adjusted after living in Chicago her whole life, and receive the kind of comfort only moms can give (if you’re lucky enough to have that kind of mom). Downtown has its charms and is perfect for my mom, but I miss my old neighborhood (Midtown) a lot, and had just begun looking at apartments a week or so before the shutdown.
What are the three emojis you are using most right now?
Crying emoji, cat with heart eyes emoji, shrug emoji—I often use the shrug to signify trying to let go and shake something off.
What object, things, or process have you fallen in love with at home during quarantine? How is this impacting your mood and productivity?
Nothing new! Except I guess you could say I’m enamored by hope for when quarantine ends. It’s a fantasy that will come true, something to look forward to, and there’s some pleasure in that.
What do you look forward to most every day under quarantine?
Leaving quarantine by going outside! I’ve been dealing with chronic illnesses since I was 4 years old. Sooner or later, particularly with illnesses that are not easily managed, it’s likely you have learned that just because your doctor tells you a treatment will work and is safe, doesn’t mean it’s true. You learn to do your own research. I have read studies on common medications we are told “work” that show zero effectiveness above placebo, plus side effects including suicide. One medication that I took for Crohn’s disease in 2008 caused me to develop lupus. I knew this was the cause, since I discovered it was already documented that a similar drug could do so. My doctors didn’t believe me. Finally a year later, it was even stated in the commercial for this drug (that is still on the market) that it indeed causes lupus in some patients.
The U.S. is one of only two countries that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to “consumers” via TV, online, billboards. “Ask your doctor about…” There is a profit motive and conflict of interest in the agencies that have been named to protect our health. Because of my attention to these things, of the practice of science under capitalism, I’ve looked well beyond the mainstream media to make as much sense as I can of what is going on with the virus and how to keep myself and my mom as healthy as possible.
As a result, we go outside on walks without masks. Being downtown, we most often walk along the harbor. We’ve been feeding the ducks, and smaller birds, and the seagulls and pigeons (though my mom doesn’t like these last two). A few days ago we saw two geese families with fuzzy little goslings! I started feeling a pang of guilt about feeding them refined carbs. So we did a little research and have been experimenting feeding them healthier food that they supposedly also find tasty. So far we learned that about 1/4 will eat rice cake, and zero will eat strawberries.
What has been most difficult for you to adjust to?
Lack of consistent contact with strangers (and I am an introvert! INFP!), seeing humans’ greatly increased fear of other humans is disheartening and disturbing, and loss of the vague structure (and money!) that my DJ gigs and other work and outside activities provided.
What do you look forward to most after quarantine is over? What will you do, with great joy, when you are allowed to?
Communing with friends, strangers, and future friends! I can’t wait to do DJ gigs the way they’re meant to be—in person, where if you are lucky, you help create feedback loops of connection between yourself and the people in the room. And I can’t wait to support and enjoy other folk’s gigs and shows!
Have you taken up any new hobbies? What are you making?
It has been extremely difficult to keep up the level of productivity I had pre-shutdown/lockdown. I’ve been more depressed, and less productive. I’ve prepped for and done a few livestream sets because I was asked to, was paid for them, grateful to have them, and wanted to deliver, but only in the last few weeks have I had the energy and motivation to do much beyond this.
With DJing, I have noticed myself listening to and seeking out the kind of music I don’t get to play out as much because some folks don’t consider it “danceable,” and that’s been stimulating for me and reminds me why I started DJing in the first place—because of my love for music and arranging it into something that is moving to me in some way, usually to a period of catharsis each set. The music and feelings leading the way, what other people think of it second. That is how my best sets happen. Trying to please everyone makes for an incoherent, mess of a set that pleases no one for more than 4 minutes. I’m not loving live streaming because, despite playing for myself first, I still want and do best when I have that connection with others. Screens just don’t cut it in that respect.
I’ve been reminded that DJing has never been enough of an outlet for me by itself, though at this point it’s surpassed drawing as the medium I have used most consistently (22 years). So I pulled out a bunch of my jewelry projects that I haven’t touched in a couple years, and that has felt good. Maybe I will get my Etsy page going again. Also in my container with beads and tools I found fabric from years ago I planned to make into dresses for myself. I’m not the best seamstress, but this fabric needs to be on my body so I will work it out even if I have to use safety pins and duct tape, lol.