Jo Vill first started DJing back in the 70s, eventually passing his passion on to his son, Chad. 

Chad, at around 2 years old, reaching for his dad’s turntable. Photo courtesy of Chad Vill.

But they never imagined that their shared love for music would bring their Brooklyn, New York neighborhood together, as the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping families apart.

During lockdown, many New Yorkers, including Jo’s wife, Gail, would join in a daily ritual of cheering for first responders. Jo and Chad were then inspired to put some speakers in the street and start playing songs for their neighbors. This quickly morphed into a daily block party, with hundreds of people flocking to their Clinton Hill street, St. James Place, to dance and connect with others during a time of isolation. They named the parties St. James Joy.

Neighbors dancing at a Saint James Joy block party in August of 2020. Photo by Niikai Wells.

Jo and Chad came to StoryCorps in May of 2021 — more than a year after they first started St. James Joy — to remember how it all began.

Top Photo: Jo Vill and Chad Vill in Brooklyn, NY, in June of 2021. By Nathan West.

Originally aired June 18, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.