Dancehall Music Has Become My Community’s Therapy
As a way to promote suicide prevention, one DJ has merged his culture’s music with life-affirming messages and practices.
With vigorous therapy and mindful practices, I’ve become more aware of the pain that depression has brought me for many years. As I uncovered the past, I became anxious to get better. It led me to start learning more about my heritage and what might lead to the types of automatic thoughts and disruptive behavior I experience.
When I realized panic attacks were unavoidable, I then made it my duty to cope with healthier methods during them.
The pain of an attack feels like all the air in the room is gone. I endure as much breathing as l can, even if it’s shorter than a second. Then my chest begins to feel like it’s filling up with worms, piling up and trying to escape my throat. The quickest way to release this feeling for me is to curate a bashment, or what you’d call a dance party.
The genre I produce is called dancehall, and it enhances healing through culture and can transform oppressed people into spiritual royalty.
Curating inclusive dance parties in urban developments has become our heaven on earth. People from my community who needed to “release their worms” sought therapy on the dance floor and our movement has created an outlet for them all. Through playlists and producing tons of content, we have connected with a following that needed to embrace a diverse culture.
Our goal is to use research for a decrease in daily suicides and to pair anyone looking for therapy together with a therapist. Fundraising for suicide prevention and creating safe spaces for the community has and always will be the future for us.
The Event Space Promotes Healing and Inspiration
Sound systems notably originated in Kingston, Jamaica around the 1950s. Many promoters and DJs would collaborate with engineers and emcees to create events for low-income natives. Today, we serve the same purpose, in addition to spreading more information benefitting mental health. Offering education and career opportunities with local sound systems, we administer events to create stronger bonds between individuals who seek guidance as well as capable mentors.
As soon as you arrive, the aroma wafting from the table areas transcends your palette to a summer night in the Caribbean. Freshly cooked with mouth-watering spices and served immediately upon arrival, we encourage our participants to be hydrated and freed of hunger. Nourishment and conversation begin to fill the room. Vibrations from the sound system cultivate rhythm and motion, indicating an energetic connection of meditation.
Inside these dance therapy sessions, projections of motivational quotes appear on a wall to stimulate the mind for a positive event. Murals of black liberation are handcrafted, too. Family photos of a local lost to suicide appear on another wall near the eternity table. What’s an eternity table? A table on which you write kind messages to a family for a loved one battling with depression or suicide—a random act of kindness for a lost soul needing light. You can also choose a really nice care package to send as a token of appreciation encouraging a better life.
The Inside of a Dancehall Event Is Full of Life
After a trip from the eternity table, you can guarantee the dance floor is alive and thriving. Contortionists who are better known in the dancehall world as “bone breakers” will suddenly shift their arms in unnatural shapes and dive into back bending routines. Action from a “glider,” a hip-hop dancer able to move one’s feet as though floating, creates imagery only one can fathom, skating in all directions with memorable pauses. “Dancehall queens” display their genetic ability to perform acrobatic and contemporary maneuvers in fashionable risqué garments. For hair and clothing, eccentric styles are also encouraged.
This is what you witness on the dance floor: a mother of four unleashing her depression through each move she makes; a college student who has been abused by relatives all their life has just written down the number for a free therapist; tech experts are operating the projections, which bring an advanced opportunity to develop a career in informational technology; emcees and engineers control sound waves and light to heighten positive moods.
After attending these dancehall events, many participants return with great stories, ones they share through social media and live-streaming. Many new developments come from these stories, specifically research on the rates of local suicide and depression. As we create bashments, we tend to see the rates lower for the area. Through food and education disbursement, more individuals are creating a positive outlook and environment for the surrounding community. It can also lead to resume-building and employment opportunities.
Expressing joy through lived experiences is a trend we tend to see.
In the Pandemic, Outreach Has Become Even More Vital
Now, during life with COVID-19, I see our work is far from over. We are connecting with others and sharing our stories via social distancing. With creative encouragement during interactions, we have developed vast cognitive therapy procedures through color and sound. We have also bridged the gap between more social workers and therapists being united with their local network. We supply hope and love to those seeking it, as well as those unaware.
Panic attacks saved my life and I know they can save yours. Release your worms in a safe place with mindful intentions. Bask in your ability to feel what others can’t. Move toward your purpose with certainty accompanied by thought-provoking material. Heal yourself as you heal the world. Therapy comes in many forms.
Release. Release. Release.