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Rent Parties
October 24, 2003 — 4:04 pm

During the 1920s and ’30s, rent parties were common events in Harlem:

Harlemites soon discovered that meeting these doubled, and sometimes tripled, rents was not so easy. They began to think of someway to meet their ever increasing deficits. Someone evidently got the idea of having a few friends in as paying party guests a few days before the landlord’s scheduled monthly visit. It was a happy; timely thought. The guests had a good time and entered wholeheartedly into the spirit of the party. Besides, it cost each individual very little, probably much less than he would have spent in some public amusement place. Besides, it was a cheap way to help a friend in need. It was such a good, easy way out of one’s difficulties that others decided to make use of it. Thus was the Harlem rent-party born. . . .

I’ve always been interested in those parties because they were often showcases for great jazz: “At the best rent parties, professional Harlem musicians- who called them ‘jumps’ or ‘shouts’- would show up after their paying gig.” I can only imagine, but this music must have been unbelievably smokin’ — all-night jam sessions after the musicians had warmed up at their pro gigs. If I could travel back in time, I think I might head to a few of those parties first.

I’m no communitarian, but I’ve always been impressed by the problem-solving nature of these parties. At worst, you have a great time at an amazing party (OK, at worst you have a heart attack or someone shoots you — but I’m making a rhetorical point, here). At best, you help a friend pay his bills without breaking your own bank.

Which brings me to the inspiration for this post — Jeremy Lott, assistant managing editor of The American Spectator, who I saw again last night at the Blogorama, has a friend who could use some help paying the rent. I don’t know the guy, but he seems like a nice enough fellow.

So, if you’re having fun at this blog party that goes on every day for free, and if you’re in a generous mood, why not toss some money in the hat and help a brother out? If a lot of people each toss in a little bit, it’s an easy way to help a good guy out of a tight spot.

— Eric D. DixonComments (0)

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Eric D. Dixon

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