(Original Photo By: Tyler Hill)
Has there ever been a time in your life where you have been persecuted or discriminated because of who you are? You felt like you were put into a box because of your religion, nationality, skin color, gender, disability, sexuality, etc. People portray you in a certain way because of certain events that have happened, which then leads to society creating a stereotype about your group. Maybe you are a male and have been called a chauvinist simply because of your gender. Maybe you’re a person of color who is viewed as a “thug” because you aren’t white. If you’re Muslim, you might have been called a terrorist. If you have experienced homelessness at some point in your life, society attributes this circumstance to your work ethic and people will probably call you lazy or uneducated. Discrimination is happening all around us. To each and every single one of us in some way, shape, or form. It’s very sad. So how do we prevent discrimination from happening? It’s simple really…we love and respect one another. At least that is what Darrius Washington, Director of Operations for USC Events (USC hosts Paradiso Festival) in Seattle, has set out to do.
Darrius grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. If you’re unfamiliar, the city of New Orleans was founded on slavery. These slaves helped New Orleans to build its booming economy, which is a cruel reality because it also contained the largest population of free people of color. Not only is the city known for its African influence, but it is also renowned for being the birthplace of jazz music (which has sparked the creation of other genres like blues, R&B, and rock n’ roll). Jazz legends like Louis Armstrong grew up in New Orleans and often played at clubs like Preservation Hall. Growing up in such a musically thriving city, it’s no wonder that a young Darrius aspired to become a musician as well.
When he was 15 though, his family packed up their bags and moved to Seattle, Washington. His father is a pastor so they moved to start a church. The move was very hard on this teenager because it was such a culture shock. Whereas New Orleans has a much warmer climate, Seattle is typically cold, non-tropical, and rainy. Additionally, while Seattle does have a music scene, it seemed like nothing could compare to that of New Orleans’. It took awhile to adjust to the Pacific Northwest, but Darrius eventually found a reason to call this home. In this city, he was provided with a great education, diversity, and of course, fresh air.
He has lived in Seattle ever since he was 15. Right before going to college, when he was just 17, he lost his grandmother. This happened to be one of the biggest challenges Darrius has faced throughout his life. He said, “She was my rock, my biggest fan, and just an overall amazing woman. Losing her was devastating, but I live my life knowing that she is proud of all that I have accomplished.” Despite this tragedy, he was able to pick himself up and use this to fuel his passion for music. He went on to study sociology at the University of Washington. Upon graduation, this is when his career in the electronic music industry really began. He started off as a brand ambassador at USC Events, the leading electronic music promotions/event production company in Seattle. A year later, he began to follow this dream of becoming a musician and picked up DJing (he wanted to be a singer growing up). Throughout the next several years he worked his way up through the ranks and became a resident DJ at Foundation Nightclub (ranked #55 in the DJ Mag Top 100 Clubs poll) and has become a vital part of the USC Events organization ever since. In 2014, he was even named one of the top 10 DJs in Seattle by the Seattle Sun Times. In addition to promoting and selling tickets, Darrius now serves as the partnership/sponsorship coordinator, curates the art installations for all USC festivals, and assists with the talent buying as well (books the local openers). I guess you could call him a jack of-all-trades.
Since Darrius is a local artist of Seattle himself, he understands the importance of supporting local talent. He is known for booking local DJs/producers to open for the headliners at every USC show. Rather than flying out bigger artists throughout the country to open, he spends his time searching for the up-and-coming talent in Seattle. Why does he do this? He believes that every artist deserves a chance to shine. This is his plan to give back to the music scene because so many people have provided him with opportunities in the last several years. He said, “My goal is to give someone the opportunity that I was given by cultivating positive creativity and being the voice for the smaller artists trying to make their way into the scene.”
While Darrius takes his job very seriously, he also understands the importance of having fun. He wants to enjoy every moment. Even though he doesn’t sleep very much (which he is 100% okay with – he’ll sleep later), he is able to find a balance between the different roles in his life. He says that it is easy to balance everything because he loves working in the music industry. As the saying goes, “Love what you do and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Music has been the biggest inspiration throughout his entire life. It has never let him down. He simply wants to impact others and change people’s lives through the power of music.
He strives to love and respect everyone he encounters. In addition, he firmly believes that no person in this world should have their economic, social, or political opportunities limited because of who they are. Like Darrius, we should do our part in preventing discrimination from happening. As we have seen, dance music really binds people together. We have people from all walks of life involved in this scene; we are so diverse. The power of music has brought us all together. Now, imagine the global impact we could have if we were this accepting in all parts of our lives. If Darrius can do it, so can you.