This is a mutual care ministry whereby we prevent homelessness in some cases and help individuals who are moving off the street in others. A rent party is a practice that comes out of 1920s Harlem in New York City. Fats Waller and James P. Johnson used rent parties to help get by. When someone was going to come up short on their rent, they would throw a party to raise the rent. You clear the furniture out of the main room, invite all your friends and neighbors. Tell them to invite all their friends and neighbors. Charge a cover charge at the door. Provide some food. Have some musician friends play and sing for their supper and free drinks. Have some cheap beer and wine available for more contributions to the cause. This is where line dancing was invented. The most famous of these is the Electric Slide. These parties would be so crowded that, in order to dance, you had to synchronize. It was only later that Nashville expropriated it to turn the Electric Slide into country line dancing. It was a good way to have some fun on a Friday or Saturday night; for less money than at a bar or nightclub, with people you knew, while helping someone out of a tight spot.
Hard times are here again. But unlike during the Great Depression, most of us are unaware of one another’s situations. We are used to being anesthetized by the internet and by cable TV and by constant, on demand entertainment, infotainment, news and propaganda. We have been conditioned to think that anything that is not packaged and branded and sold to us is inferior, and possibly suspect. We get upset about the statistics we see on whatever “news” outlet we prefer, and we will argue about politics that ultimately will benefit the rich regardless of which party is in power, because, let’s face it, they’re all rich and out of touch with any personal sense of neighbors in need. A lot of people on the right are screaming that government is not the answer. A lot of people on the left are crying that the government is too slow to respond. Yet most, on both left and right, just continue to holler at each other while we could actually be doing something to address the suffering and the poverty about which we all say we are concerned.
A rent party is the perfect blend of free enterprise spirit and socialist concern! It’s a cheap date with live entertainment, good, home-cooked food, spirits, laughter, and friendship. Or you can choose to give more with the expectation that when you are short, the others will come to your aid. Another thing I want to say is that there is no shame in coming up short some times. “Events conspire” as they say. Kids get sick. Hours at work get cut back. Utility prices change. Oil and gas prices change. Appliances break or wear out. Expected Christmas bonuses are not given or are miserly. There are dozens of nickel and dimey things that can get a household behind the 8 ball before you can say, “Bob’s your uncle!” Then there are the salesmen and bankers who can paint a rosier picture of the future to get one to finance things one shouldn’t and acquire more debt than one should. Then there is student loan debt. When people are working hard and still not able to make ends meet, there is no shame.
We are adding a 21st century twist to that. Since we sometimes belong to communities by way of the web that are far flung and know people in need that can’t gather a bunch of neighbors physically in their living rooms, we are going to use the web to throw “virtual rent parties.” The projects will be listed here or on connected pages. A family or group can choose to host a live party to raise funds to meet that need, then mail the funds to The King’s Jubilee. Or you may make a donation by check or Paypal or EFT designating it to “VRP” and it will go to the next goal in line. Isn’t it time we stop just complaining about how bad things have gotten and start doing something to make them better?