Bringing down the house
Darlene Jackson had planned to become a podiatrist. Instead of caring for feet, though, this 1990 graduate gets feet around the world moving to the beat as “Lady D,” a popular Chicago DJ of house music.
“House is an umbrella term that means any music that has soul, that you vibe with and that takes you higher spiritually,” she said in an April interview with 5 Magazine, a Chicago online publication. Jackson spins house music at clubs throughout Chicago — including Smart Bar, House of Blues, Le Passage, Moonshine, Evil Olive, Zentra and more — plus you’ll find her giving music her own special spin at parties and dance clubs around the world, including in Europe and Asia.
It isn’t the career path she planned to walk. After graduating from Millikin in 1990 with a biology degree, Jackson briefly attended podiatry school in Chicago before having a change of heart. “The program could not handle my creative and free-spirited nature,” Jackson says, “and I had to hang up my stethoscope, so to speak. In actuality, it wasn’t a conscious decision to leave for deejaying, but once I had a taste of traveling and experiencing the global dance community, I was hooked on the lifestyle.”
The Chicago dance community is apparently hooked on her, too.
“The Chicago house scene would be incomplete without Lady D,” according to Epitonic.com, a web site that plays independent music from MP3 downloads, radio streams and full album streams.
When she’s not working solo, Jackson is one-fourth of SuperJane, a DJ collective of four women. Though each spins house music, each DJ is marked by her own unique style. “I love each of the women I play with and trust them as friends and confidantes,” Jackson told 5 Magazine.
Jackson also produces music as co-owner of D’lectable, an independent recording label, and is a host and producer at radio station WBEW 89.5-FM. “It’s been great so far; I just completed a year there,” she says. Content from the station is broadcast on www.vocalo.org, a content sharing, social networking site.
In February, Jackson returned to Millikin as the keynote speaker for a Leadership in Diversity summit on campus, where she discussed how her work at the radio station provides a forum for the community to discuss diversity.
“I think it was great for the students to see someone so successful and innovative in finding new ways to talk about race,” says Sandra McKenna, a Millikin English instructor.
“I was completely honored to be asked back to MU to speak on a topic I hold dear,” Jackson says, “and I was pleased to be able to use my life experiences to offer leadership to the students who definitely need encouragement. To see the strides that have been made at MU in the area of diversity — from multicultural students to faculty — gives me hope for the future.”
by Natalie Perfetti ’09
The complete article appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Millikin Quarterly magazine.