The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop Randy Hawkins from celebrating his birthday with a virtual Zoom party with a Cinco de Mayo theme. (Courtesy photo)
The COVID-19 pandemic didn't stop Randy Hawkins from celebrating his birthday with a virtual Zoom party with a Cinco de Mayo theme. (Courtesy photo)

Plans for Randy Hawkins’ annual birthday/Cinco de Mayo celebration and Mexico trip came to an immediate halt with the advent of the novel coronavirus, but that didn’t deter him from hosting a virtual party that rivaled the several others that have taken place in the cyber realm over the past few months.

For a few hours last week, Hawkins and his guests broke away from the monotony of the quarantine by pouring drinks and grooving to numerous tunes, all from the confines of their home and in front of the computer in solidarity with the celebrant.

“My friends loved the idea that I was doing the virtual zoom party. I had 40 people when the party first started,” said Hawkins, who lives in Clinton, Maryland. “I had top DJs [like] DJ Rico, DJ Frisco and DJ Roblove. Once I confirmed with the DJs, I set the meeting room up, [and] sent out invitations on Facebook.

“We had so much fun,” he said. “We laughed, took shots, drank, talked trash, ate, and even danced while listening to the DJs play. We still got to party, just not in person.”

In the D.C. metropolitan area, and around the country, virtual parties have increasingly met the needs of people anxious for human contact and frustrated about large scale events that have been canceled since March. Party planners have capitalized on the trend, getting creative about how to serve people converging on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom and Google Hangout, where extroverts have participated in Netflix watch parties, recipe swaps, baby showers, and other types of virtual gatherings.

The exodus to the virtual world has incited some concerns about security and technology fatigue. Even so, party enthusiasts, musicians stuck at home especially, have used this tool to lift spirits.

A recent Instagram battle between Erykah Badu and Jill Scott counted among many instances when highly revered artists competed track for track on a live social media broadcast. In the go-go world, Backyard Band, Suttle Thoughts, and other bands have taken their talents online with electrifying shows aired from a studio.

Long before the coronavirus became a pandemic, party planner Dana Walker used video conferencing software to maintain contact with family members living abroad. In the early days of the quarantine, she put her technological and planning skills to use and hosted a virtual happy hour for her friends. That event inspired the launch of Virtual Vibrations where Walker equips party hosts and goers with prepared invitations, activities, games, conversation starters, host notes, and a host planning guide.

As she expands her catalogue and gains a following among Black women, Walker said she has learned how to overcome what had been considered setbacks of virtual partying so that revelers under her watch get an experience much like what they missed.

“I have most enjoyed creating illustrations that feature Black women and activities that incorporate many cultural references, interests, and experiences,” said Walker who lives in Alexandria, Virginia. “I am expanding offerings to include virtual baby showers, graduations, birthday parties and more. While this has been fun and a learning experience for me, I truly hope it makes the difference in the lives of African Americans and makes it easier to stay home as our community is continually impacted at disproportionate rates.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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