Juke Joint of a New Generation

Beginning during the era of Jim Crow laws and segregation, juke joints became necessary to create a safe haven for black social life. While African Americans were not allowed into white establishments they created some place where they could let loose and live life.

The word “juke” means disorderly in Gullah, alluding to the rowdiness of the joints. Most times the clubs were used for eating, gambling and drinking, but most important, was the musicality of the Juke Joint.

Juke joints began in the Southeast region of the United States as a place to listen to live musical performances. Instruments like the fiddle and banjo were integral in performances, and as time went on ragtime, blues and dance was incorporated into juke joints.

The legacy of the Juke Joint still lives on today. The Nyumburu Cultural Center celebrated 20 years of hosting Juke Joint on November 30, 2017. Juke Joint has served the black community on campus as a home of self-expression. Students perform original songs, spoken word poetry, rap and dance.

Juke Joints here have even opted to add in their own personal twists. They now feature roll call, where students represent their home city with the most popular dances from areas like Prince George’s County and Baltimore City. 

Juke Joints have come up with some very specific rules as well.There is no cursing allowed, one must be “respectful of the mic” in the Freedom House. 

For some performers like Devante Hawkins, a junior american studies major, he has only performed once at Juke Joint. He describes it as, “an outlet for students to showcase their art.” While it was impulse that sparked this performance for him it may not be his last time taking the Nyumburu stage.

Juke Joint is held at the Nyumburu Cultural Center the last Thursday of every month and hopes to continue to serve as a safe space for students for the many years to come.