The Electric Slide: Breaking Social Barriers

A smile, laughter, music, dance…these are all parts of life that can transcend any level of wealth, social class, and culture. Think about those little things that make all of us on this earth human.

So what do you do on a Wednesday night in Skid Row? Join the residents singing karaoke and dancing at a local church! This is a weekly event in the community and a favorite of DePaul Service trip participants from previous years. Being one of our first nights in LA, I was definitely not acclimated to my new environment yet and thought this might be fun, although I had no idea of what to expect. This wasn’t a traditional church by any means. We almost didn’t find it since it was on the first floor of an older building and had no clear markings.

We were greeted at the door some hosts asking for newcomers to sign-in and welcoming us. Walking in and finding seats, our group definitely looked out-of-place and I was a little anxious that we wouldn’t be accepted. This wouldn’t have surprised me after some of the not-so-positive reactions our group got when we were walking on the streets the day before.  I understood that we were the ‘outsiders’ obviously not from around there and people were staring at us wondering who we were and why we were there.

The stares returned back to the ‘stage’ and a few of my service group members including myself starting flipping through the song books. Our group received warm welcomes from the DJ and applause from the audience that definitely eased my nerves. I recall there being so much positivity and overall encouragement. It was so refreshing to see the sincere joy that filled the room. No one was booed off the stage and every singer got a round of applause. I went up with my friend to sing ‘December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)‘ by The Four Seasons. I figured that this was a fun, upbeat song. Perfect!

We were told last-minute that the song we had requested wasn’t available, so another version of it was going to be played. I figured that this wasn’t too important considering it was karaoke. When the music started, I noticed that it wasn’t The Fours Seasons and instead a song I had never heard in my life. Without any choice, we went with it and struggled to keep the slow tempo and lyrics. I was so grateful that a few of the audience members started singing along and helping us out.

As karaoke night came to an end, people began stacking chairs and moving them to the exterior of the room. I was helping and figured that everyone was just cleaning up. Wrong! It was time for the electric slide. This was the best part of the night with everyone sharing in this silly dance and experiencing a sense of solidarity in doing so.

I eventual realized that everyone in the church had a simple, common goal to relax, enjoy each others company, and sing along. Do you think that this is a rare occurrence in a place like Skid Row or do most people share these needs? Pleases share your experiences and thoughts!


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